The Next Man Up

By Bryan Perry, Ph.D., IPLI Mentor, Director of School Support, Harrison Attendance District

Leading 3d Characters Showing Command And Leadership

In sports there is a phrase used when a player is injured, “the next man up.”  This player will fill the gap, and the team will continue seamlessly in their pursuit of championships.  I would suggest that in our chosen profession, we aspire for schools to follow the same philosophy when a teacher or administrator leaves or retires.  It has become increasingly clear that there are not lines of qualified teachers and administrators standing at the door ready to enter the game, so it is up to school leaders to build a system that prepares individuals for when the “next man/woman is up.”  When it comes to ensuring our students experience high quality instruction, we must make hiring, coaching, and retaining teachers a priority.

First, we owe it to our students to put the extra effort into seeking the best candidate possible to fill a vacancy.  Hiring a new teacher is an opportunity to make your school and staff better.   As Todd Whitaker says, “There are really two ways to improve a school significantly:  1) get better teachers, and 2) improve the teachers you have.”  For some great tips on hiring, check out the following websites:

Although it is sometimes difficult to find excellent teachers, technology offers us the opportunity to find and interview from all areas of Earth.  We cannot miss an opportunity to talk to a potential staff member, so if an individual meets your teaching requirements, be open to interviewing someone from another country.  My current record for a long distance interview is the UK.

Second, the current state of the accountability movement has led some to believe we simply remove an under-performing teacher.   I would never disagree with the removal of an ineffective teacher.  I would, however, argue that prior to that point we must determine if it is will or skill.  If it is skill, we should be coaching a teacher through the areas where they need assistance. Michael Toth, with Learning Sciences International, recently reminded our corporation, “People come into our profession for the heart, and we need to keep them there.”  There are few replacements ready to take over, so we must build current teacher capacity.

Finally, I believe it is our duty to identify and encourage our future administrators.  There are a lot of teachers who don’t realize they have the ability to lead.  I have approached many teachers encouraging them to consider becoming a building-level leader. I truly love identifying, coaching, encouraging, and supporting growing leaders.  We should be looking for the skills necessary to be an instructional leader and supporting these future leaders as they prepare to replace us in the future.  If you wonder how to do this, read “Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership” in ASCD’s Educational Leadership (http://bit.ly/1oMJV1A).

We can simply wait and hope that our future teachers and administrators show up on our door step, or we can do something about the “next man/woman up.”  Our organizations should be a place of support and growth.  There is great personal satisfaction in having a hand in improving staff in a multitude of areas and pursuits.