This post is in response to a comment from Lena on June 12, 2008
“Yes! This is a reminder to myself and to you that I want to talk about lack of good administrators out there. How do we recruit, train, and retain quality Montessori administrators who are well-versed in Montessori education but also have the skill set required to sustain good schools. Running a classroom and running a school are two very different things…”
A dear friend once commented that “if you enjoy hours and hours of research in the library and writing long, well documented research papers, then you will enjoy law school and being a lawyer”. The wisdom of this comment is that, as much as the law is about liberty and justice, the actual practice of law is about researching and writing.
As much as Montessori schools are about freedom, discovery, and following the child,the actual administration of a school is about meetings, phone calls, drafting and enforcing policies, hiring and firing employees, and managing budgets.
I would posit that the best way to recruit and retain quality administrators is to seek those who enjoy and are skilled at administrating. Someone who enjoys the daily tasks of administrating will be motivated everyday. If they have familiarity with the Montessori method that is a bonus, but, I would rather teach a capable administrator about the Montessori method than try to teach the skills of administration to a Montessori enthusiast.
I do not believe that an effective administrator needs full Montessori training either. Theory lectures, observations, and representative examples of material presentations should be enough to help an administrator understand the general functioning of an environment. An administrator needs to understand the 3 hour work cycle and its importance, but it is not necessary that the administrator be able to present all the mathematical materials. It is necessary that an administrator be able to balance a budget and present to a board of directors, and these skills are not taught in AMI training courses.
Seeking individuals with administrative skills who are interested in a career change may be the most fruitful way of recruiting candidates. Many professionals leave the business world hoping to use their skills to improve the public good rather than increase profits. Many of these individuals look at non-profit charities and non-governmental organizations, but often overlook the field of education because they do not wish to teach. How can we advertise and increase awareness of school administration as a viable alternative?
If schools are forced by circumstances or choose to recruit from among teachers, assistants, or the parent community I think they may do well to consider sponsoring these interested candidates through a business training program, whether undergrad or an MBA. Once again, the skill set required to administrate effectively is not a skill set the Montessori community is currently adapted to provide. NAMTA offers administrator services and the AMI refresher includes an Administrative workshop, but as I have not attended these I cannot speak to its efficacy or range (does this teach administration basics or does it merely familiarize one with Montessori school specifics).
In summary, I think it is better to find capable administrators interested in Montessori schools, rather than find individuals interested in Montessori schools and convince them to become administrators.