“Who would I be as an administrator if I wasn’t teaching, wasn’t in the classroom, not empathizing and sympathizing with teachers and students? I would be less good at my job,” Associate Dean Brian Poon said.
In addition to their administration job, administrators such as the Headmaster, Assistant Headmaster and Deans are expected to teach a class at the high school.
As of this school year, Poon is teaching Asian-American studies and Economics, although he previously taught AP European History.
Poon said the fact that administrators teach classes helps them understand the ups and downs of the average student’s school life.
“We are a school that says administrators should teach because we value that our administrators are grounded in the classroom and grounded in the everyday blessings and challenges that our students face,” Poon said. “If I didn’t get to teach I wouldn’t know what students struggle with in the classroom. I could always be a step removed from that.”
Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, who teaches one class of American Literature, said that the realms of teaching and administrating are one in the same because teaching helps him improve his skills as the Assistant Headmaster.
“I’m engaged with students and I’m understanding their needs, and indirectly the needs of teachers, in dealing with classrooms full of students,” Mason said. “It’s not really two separate worlds. Everything I do with my class informs and includes the work I do as Assistant Headmaster.”
According to Curriculum Coordinator of the Science Department and physics teacher Ed Wiser, the only way in which his class differs from any other science teacher’s class is that he tries new things often.
“When we’re trying to be innovative and pushing the boundaries of what we’re doing, I will often try to test things and let people know how well it went,” Wiser said. “Other than that, no, we collaborate like crazy. I’m doing the same thing today that all the teachers will be doing this week, if they haven’t already done it.”
Senior Olivia Siegel, who is in Headmaster Deborah Holman’s Gender in Society class this year, said that she does not think that Holman is dissimilar from other teachers.
“I don’t really see much of a difference between her and an average teacher,” Siegel said. “The only major difference is that she hasn’t opened up much about being a female authority figure at the school but I’m excited to hear what she has to say about it later on in the year. I’m excited to hear how she’s made a positive impact on the school.”
Junior Anna Bailey is in Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason’s English class and said that, because of Mason’s other role as an administrator, the students in her class were skeptical to be too vocal at the very beginning of the year.
“Our class was silent for the first day,” Bailey said. “We didn’t ask questions. We just sat there and finally people started raising their hands kind of shyly.”
Mason said that although he may enter the classroom with more power than other teachers at the high school and students may react to this, it only lasts for a short period of time.
“Ultimately, I come in with a little more authority, and I come in with a little bit of extra status so the kids certainly know that and some kids find that intimidating when they first come in the class,” Mason said. “But, that lasts about the first two days. After that initial dynamic is worked out, it’s all about what I’m teaching and how well I teach and the quality of student I have in front of me.”
Siegel said that the tradition of having administrators teach classes should continue because
it is important for students to know that their superiors can truly understand what the academic life as a student is like.
“I think that they should definitely teach, even if it’s just one class, because I think they need to have a connection with the students on an academic level,” Siegel said. “Even though there’s a lot of other benefits to school, the reason we’re here is to get an education. If the Headmaster doesn’t understand how much homework you have, if you’re stressed out around mid-years, and to see the general stress and excitement of student life, it’s harder for them to relate to the student body.”
Bailey, like Siegel, said that having administrators teach classes is a good school-wide philosophy because she liked seeing them beyond their office walls involved in the community.
“I think it’s good for us to see administrators as people who can be more relatable, who want to talk to kids and genuinely want to know what’s going on,” Bailey said. “They’re people who want to be part of the school community. I’m glad that they want to get involved and be a part of “us.””