What Do Teachers Need From Administrators?

What do I need from administrators? It seems to be a huge question, and I am not sure why. Administration, in my experience in elementary schools in California's Bay Area, seems to be a tool of policy makers, not defenders of good, wholesome educational practices--they are the purveyors of fads. Or maybe they are simply trying to stay employed.


I have had principals who never taught in an elementary classroom. I've had principals who have been out of a classroom for 20 years, yet still think they are current. My district has gone through 3 superintendents in 10 years, each with his/her own "bee in the bonnet" about something that has more to do with money than educating kids. It's a sorry state of affairs.

Administration/principals in a school, IMHO, should be made up of current teachers. Actually, administrator should be a non-education based job--administrators should not be principals. At big hospitals there a managers who manage the business side, leaving medical personnel to do medicine. Sure there is a chief medical person, but that person is chiefly medical and only meets with the MBAs when money versus best practices is at issue, not to decide on medical procedures, ideally.

I want this for schools. Principals are too busy dealing with budgets--being the tools of the board and superintendent. School districts spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with money--cutting programs, overworking staff, eliminating positions--because America has chosen war over children, or something similar. Principals, who started as teachers, are not best used as OMB-type employees. They started out as educators, and should remain leaders of education in schools, not budget cutting consultants who come in fresh, ready to cut and slash.

I would like to see an administration separate the double role principals play into 2 distinct roles: the money role (administrator) and the educational leader role (principal). I propose to do it like this:

Let's assume a district with 12 elementary schools--a 1-high school town. In this town there would be an MBA type administrator (or 2) who would deal with the money for all schools--budgets would be prepared and analyzed by this MBA's staff and then presented to the educational leaders at each school. I call them educational leaders because they would be teachers. Let me explain, because here is where I go nuts:

The principal of an elementary school should be working with parents, teachers and children, not budgets and money management. In order to have an educator (teacher) as principal we would need to do something very different in terms of credentialing. Imagine if all teachers were not just credentialed as a teacher, but also as an administrator (principal)? The administrator classes one needs to take to get an administration credential are few, making them an easy addition to a regular credential program. By combining a regular credential with an administrator supplement, making a new, more robust single credential, there is suddenly a large number of those who could be principal.

In my scenario, teachers with the new credential would rotate from year to year as principal. Sure, it is similar to a teacher-led school, but my idea changes credentialing and traditional administration of schools. If I am a classroom teacher this year, I might be principal next year, then my buddy teacher the year after that with me returning to the classroom. This puts educators and colleagues in charge of the school--with no worries about finances because they are taken care of by the "money-man."

I like the idea because my experience with administration has been an adversarial one with money pitted against what's best for kids. What would this new principal/teacher be able to do? Freed from an Excel spreadsheet a principal would have time to help with the actual teaching of students and professional development of teachers. Staff meetings would take on an air of a team working toward more cohesion and attentiveness to the needs of students as opposed to the constant strum and drang of management-speak.

A principal should be a classroom expert, especially in elementary school.  They should be part of the school team, not part of the management adversariat.  

Teachers should run schools.  Schools are not businesses.

The Frustrated Teacher is a former elementary school teacher with 13 years of classroom experience in Title I schools.  Before that he ran summer camps and after school programs for affluent kids.  He has worked with young children for 30 years.  He left the classroom to pursue a private consulting practice where his penchant for calling it like it is won't be such a downer.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

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Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.