I remember my first year stepping outside of the classroom to work with adults. It was such a disappointment. Although I was having a greater impact and feeling professionally fulfilled, it was nothing compared to the fun and personal fulfillment I got out of working with kids. Half the time I was behind a computer and the other half of the time, I was in front of teachers. I doubted myself and how I was spending my time, and made plans to return to the classroom as soon as possible.
Over the years, I’ve come to love my role in education management. But it’s the times like last spring when I get invited to play and hang out with kids at one of our schools in Shantou, Guangdong that keep me humbled and energized. I’m not talking about observing classes, doing assessments or providing feedback to teachers and students. I’m talking about chilling with kids, talking about their dreams and hopes, and dancing around the school courtyard. It reminded me why I loved being a teacher and how much I wanted to improve the education system for them.
In China, principals usually teach full course loads of classes alongside their staff. Oftentimes it’s because of a shortage of teachers, but I’ve had more than one principal tell me that it keeps them focused on what students need and want. The CEO of Teach For India actually leads a musical drama group using project-based learning practices with local students. My favorite administrator from when I was a teacher was a woman who left her principal role every 5 years to be a classroom teacher for one or two years.
After seven years working in adult learning and education management, I would no longer trust myself (at least immediately) as a classroom leader. But I love children and when my teachers see me play, hang out and ask questions that foster critical thinking, my credibility as an administrator goes up. Although I’ve chosen to work outside of a school for the past seven years, a huge part of me wishes I made an effort to teach a class, even if it was only once a week. Because it’s times like this when I hang out with students that remind me that no matter how fancy my job titles get, at the end of the day, they’re the ones in charge of telling us what they want and what they deserve. In my next job, I resolve to close my laptop and play with kids more often. I know I’ll be a better person for it.
The opinions expressed in Lessons From China are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.