Asking Teachers for More

Educators at Zeke Vandehoek’s New York City public charter school don’t have the typical job description.
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Question: How did you transition from teacher to administrator?

Zeke Vanderhoek: Well I don’t view the role of principals purely administrative. I also view it as the role of permanent substitute so I actually get to teach in all classrooms and I don’t think I’ll be happy if it was simply an administrative role. My hope is to be in classrooms a lot, helping teachers, providing feedback, teaching myself so I’m not that daunted by the fact that, “Oh, now I’m going into administrative role.” Because I don’t really view it completely in that way.

Question: How will Equity Project teachers balance their roles?

Zeke Vanderhoek: We’ve been very careful about planning a teacher’s day so that it’s not overwhelming so that’s actually more sustainable than what I experienced when I was teaching sixth grade and teaching four subjects and doing an after school activity etcetera. So, we’ve done few things. One, every teacher at the school only teaches one subject to one grade so they really do have to prepare one thing. If I’m the fifth grade math teacher I teach fifth grade math to four different groups of kids but only have to prepare that one subject. In terms of taking on an outside role every teacher takes on one and only one role that would normally be filled by an administrator. An example is one teacher on each grade level would be the director of assessment. Another example, one teacher on each grade level would be the director of parent involvement and attendance and so one of the ideas behind this is not only that of course we’re eliminating a bunch of administrative who cost money but also that it makes more sense for kids especially kids who are struggling to have fewer points of contact. If a kid is struggling and there’s a parent coordinator, there is an assistant principal, there is a dean, there’s the principal, there’s a social worker, there’s a guidance counselor, they’re are all the student’s teachers. It’s very hard to solve that problem where as if you sort of limit it to maybe the student’s teacher, a social worker and a principal there’s more effective communication in general and there are more pieces that are fit together as opposed to everybody having a tiny little piece which makes it very challenging to solve whatever the issue is.

Recorded on: June 30, 2009