Friday, May 30, 2014

Year 4: Week 36 – Department Chair

Why did I decide to take on the extra work and stress of being a department chair?

As teachers, we serve the needs of our students and as department chairs, we serve the needs of teachers in our department. It’s a thankless job, just like being a teacher where people rarely understand and acknowledge the behind the scenes work that help keep a school going.

The best department chairs are the ones that don’t really like being department chairs. Similar to my view on great administrators, great department chairs are people who would rather spend their time teaching but choose to take on extra responsibilities because they have a talent for organization and leadership. Taking on this role is a way to thank other department chairs for doing all this work previously.

It’s not about power, but in a way it is. There’s no denying that part of the extra-responsibility is that fact that you have the power to make decisions and be part of conversations that give you greater influence on the direction of the department and the direction of the school.

I have a talent for coming up with big ideas, selling these ideas to other people and keeping a lot of plates spinning. It’s feels a little crazy because the year I took on being a department chair was the year I took paternity leave and had an infant at home.

It feels overwhelming a lot of the time. There’s a lot that’s had to give. I haven’t had the time to plan my classes as carefully. Tons more discussions, ideas and projects are floating around in my head than ever before. It doesn’t feel like my head is going to explode, it just feels like there’s not always a clear sense of what I need to do next.

I kind of like the insanity. This position forces me to not be lazy. It gives me the chance to make things happen for other people, which is extremely gratifying even if it’s simply finding funds to purchase a cello rack.

Managing adults is not what I signed up for as a teacher. I’m here to manage little kids and that’s tough. But I’ve found that emulating things I like about administrators that I respect really helps. I’ve focused on being decisive, clear and fair, admitting my own errors while holding people accountable for their own mistakes.

I chose to be a department chair because right now my vision for my department and my energy lines up with what the administration and what my departments desires. I don’t think it will be this case forever, but right now it seems to fit.

I don’t know how to handle every situation and there’s been things I was suppose to do that I missed. It’s not perfect but I’m trying. Even though I know that I have a certain amount of power, I constantly remind myself that this power is given to me so that I can better serve others, not my own interests.

So I signed up for another year of this craziness.  There's a lot more to do, but when I think back on everything I'm trying to balance at work, I smile, because, while it's a lot and it's insane, I know that I got this.

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