Teaching was a great career, including the overseas ESL jobs, my music studio, adult night school, and the public school teaching I did in my Design and Technology centres and in numerous regular classrooms. 
   School administration was another matter altogether:  I was an elementary "profile vp" for the final six years of my career in education, i.e. not permanently assigned to any school, but instead just placed where an extra admin helper was needed in a school with operational difficulties, for two year stretches.  My job was very clerical - I never got over my astonishment that they'd pay me so well to spend long hours doing what a secretary on half of my salary could have done: teacher absence coverages, vaccination and health follow-ups, and chasing students away from our lunchroom program, for example.  That bears explanation: we tried to deliver free lunches to the most needy children without singling them out, but some parents didn't want to bother with their own children and lunchtime, or their children begged to stay at school to be with their friends through the lunch hour, so we had a constant struggle to dissuade stay-at-home parents to take their own children at home for lunch.
   My considerable experience in technology (D&T or computers), music, curriculum delivery through drama and music, especially for ESL and English, and other areas of strength including finance and budget, all of which were highlighted in my interviews for the administrator role and presumably were the rationale for my selection over other applicants, were never called upon except as I drew on them to fulfill my own adjunct teaching assignments...what a waste.  I never got to lead a wider school program in any of those areas.
    I was witness to some goofy management in two of those schools, which shouldn't come as a great surprise. Principals are former teachers, many of whom hated math and loved languages or the arts; few of the ones I knew demonstrated sound budget experience or aptitude, and some had awful personnel management skills.  In terms of curriculum and resource decisions, they tend to make unilateral decisions based on personal expertise which is specialized, but narrow; combine that with dubious budget and procurement skills, and an obvious bottleneck to the development of diverse and balanced school programs is revealed...mix in a proclivity for allowing personal likes and dislikes to cloud their dealings with staff, and no checks to their power beyond union contracts, and you've got a recipe for genuine disasters.  I was always a teacher's union supporter, and I was a union steward for a decade; nothing I saw in six years of school administration convinced me that teachers would ever be able to do without union protection.  As far as school administrators go - and they do come and go - for every good egg in one school, there's incompetence or bullying - or both - going on in the school next door.
    Over two of those years I completed the four part Experienced Principal's Development Course.  That was a good program with lots of heady cutting-edge ideas to go along with my diverse skill set, but it also became increasingly clear that school board reality precluded ever getting a chance to put them into practice, even if I applied for promotion to become principal of my own school.  The only fresh thing I remember being able to put into practice from the course was the concept of a data wall, which I constructed and explained to my staff; apart from that we had very good extended training in liability issues, personnel management, and similar topics.
    In my first admin assignment I spent two years watching my Family of Schools develop a program called Pathways, embracing the need to restore some version of technology education for our inner-city Toronto students.  I was very excited: this was right down my alley, and I had a better background in technological education than the co-ordinator or any of my administrative colleagues, so I expected to be able to play a role - in fact, I fully expected to be asked to perform related tasks, communicate with industry representatives, and so on, but that really only happened when I initiated it, and the benefit was limited to my own school.  I had helpful ideas which were quietly ignored by the master architects of this Board exercise; apart from numerous expensive meetings where our school absences were covered and the food was gluttonous, nothing significant ever came of that initiative, at least within my own Family of Schools, during my two years of involvement with it.  I understand that Pathways to Education is a wider concept which has celebrated achievements in other forms and jurisdictions within the TDSB, but I haven't tried to investigate or analyze any of those; based on what I experienced, one never knows how much of what is proclaimed is real, and how much is just staging and wallpapering, a pretty well to throw resources and funding down into the darkness and listen hopefully for a faint splash.
    In my second Family of Schools there was a focus on digital technology, which was also an area of strength for me.  The new superintendent suggested that I throw myself into her initiative, and gave me access to some of her funds.  I attended several workshops and training sessions with her and for her, and gave workshops to teachers in her other schools, but there was no attempt at system-wide implementation, just a few solitary cases where individual teachers developed a personal interest in how digital technology could enhance the lives of their students and make curriculum delivery more exciting.  Through it all, I remained mired in a very heavy workload in my own school, including a three-quarter time teaching schedule on top of my admin duties that kept me at work six days a week. 
    In my third Family of Schools I was brought in on a workshop in data mining.  I'd had months of prior training in data mining, three years earlier, and had completed a three-part course in it.  I was even one of the few people board-wide who had multi-level access to the "data cube" for our board; but again, I was never called upon to help my new Family of Schools explore ways to use the data cube. All school administrators were given a gigantic expensive binder with data matrices - of some use, but a pale imitation of the digital data cube concept, and of course, out-of-date within a year. Now, the data-driven administration of schools is a real transition,
and an extremely useful one, but there just didn't seem to be much comprehension in the average administrative group, and no call for me to help them acquire it in spite of my background.        
    Admittedly, I'm not sure how eagerly I'd have risen to the opportunity, after two previous disappointments and five years of waiting to be asked to do something visionary. 
In any case, I was already securely hog-tied in the booking of supply teachers, running a new nutrition program, doing student discipline and tracking health issues, and a myriad of other admin duties and little acts of greasing the wheels in a large and busy school, along with a one quarter day teaching schedule.  I now believe that many fresh initiatives in school boards consist - perhaps even intentionally, sometimes, although no-one would be foolish enough to admit it - of spinning wheels, going nowhere, but justifying careers and promotions, and getting paid for it. 
    In retrospect, I'd have to say that my career as a teacher was terrific; as a school administrator, less terrific.  For someone else it might turn out differently, depending on where you work, who you get to work with, and if you don't get stuck in the role of a "profile vp" with a heavy teaching load in addition to a heavily clerical administrative work load.  Make no mistake, if you are considering a career in education: the creativity and the joy of human relationships is in teaching, and gets sucked out of your day when you become an administrator.  But the career provided me with a decent salary beyond my daily needs (enough to be able to travel extensively as well as to save and invest for retirement); occasional stress and misery, but also emotional rewards, good health and dental benefits, and a pension. 
       What more should one ask for?  I could have done a lot worse.  I was disappointed in the dearth of realization of potential toward the tail end of my career, and I truncated it deliberately; but I was wise enough to realize that it wasn't so much my failure as an institutional, systemic one.  My last school was a wonderful experience in terms of staff, students and admin partners, even if my role was still heavily clerical and managerial rather than visionary and progressive.  I know that I delivered strong effort under constrained conditions during my admin years in three different schools, and I've put my doubts and disappointments to rest; I did great work as a teacher for the three-quarters of my career that preceded administration, and now I've moved on to an active, interesting retirement.

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