Meg Palladino, writing from Boston, USA.
As the daughter of a public high school English teacher, I saw my mother spend entire weekends with stacks of papers and a stash of red pens, grading for hours. I thought that teaching was an awful job. Hoping to avoid that fate, I got my bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies, but after I graduated, I found that I had no idea what to do with my degree. I spent a year working at Starbucks and I realized right away that I needed to make a change. I needed a graduate degree, and I needed one that I could put to use immediately after I got the degree. I found my way into Education. I discovered that I have a passion for, and maybe even a talent for teaching. (I must get that from my mother.)
My interest in teaching came as a surprise to me, but not nearly as much as a surprise as my discovered passion for administration. It had never occurred to me that I could find a passion for management, meetings and spreadsheets. The leadership, people skills, and time management I developed through teaching have helped me become a better manager. My classroom management skills are the same skills that I use to run meetings effectively, with an agenda, an outcome, and participation from all participants. The spreadsheets are similar to my grade book – they help me keep track of my information, so that I can report on it effectively. Most importantly, I grew a thick skin in the classroom, which has helped me deal with office politics and take criticism without losing my cool.
As a teacher, I know that I can make a direct impact on the lives of my students. As an administrator, I can lead change that will ultimately help larger numbers of students. I can set policies that break down barriers for students. I can think of curriculum from a wide angle lens, thinking about how a set of classes fit together to make a program, and I can think about the student life cycle from the moment they hear about our programs, though the application process, experience as enrolled students, and life after their academic program.
The macro view of creating and implementing a program is something that excites me. Instead of going home with a stack of papers to grade, I go home with my iPhone and countless unread emails to respond to, meetings to schedule, and spreadsheets to either fill out or analyze. I realize now that if I like my work, it isn’t so terrible to take it home and tackle it there, as long as I make time for an idle coffee at Starbucks with my friends, or to spend a weekend visiting my mother. My impact as an administrator creates solutions for large numbers of students, and paves the way for future students.