BUT FIRST, A STORY.
Every month, when the newest issue of University Affairs magazine is delivered to my office, I excitedly tear off the plastic and immediately flip to the back to read the column From the Administrator's Chair*. I love this column because it's written by administrators, for administrators, about issues that administrators working in today's universities should be concerned about. And sometimes the author writes something that really hits home and reminds me why I got into university administration in the first place. This is how I felt when I read the September 2017 FTAC column, and read the words of the new writer, Sheila-Cote Meek:
Though this particular article was especially notable for Cote-Meek's observations about Indigenous issues, I couldn't agree more with this statement regarding what initially drew her to working in administration. I feel the same way, and I'm sure others, across Canada and around the world, reading this column, who practice and study educational administration, felt the same way I did.
So what do I mean by "everyday" texts?
To differentiate between the kinds of scholarly texts only available in academic journals, examples of "everyday" (non-scholarly) texts are shorter articles found in magazines, newspapers, trade publications, blogs, websites, and social media accounts. These op-ed pieces, features, blogs posts, and tweets, are often short and succinct, have a defined purpose, and contain content that is written in plain language unobscured by academic jargon. Everyday discourse appeals to the current generation of consumers who read the majority of their news online via social media, spending on an average only 15 seconds on any given webpage before deciding to move on or not. Shorter news articles are more likely to be read, and web writers are more concerned than ever about creating engaging, relevant, and helpful content in order to create a loyal readership.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERYDAY ADMINISTRATIVE DISCOURSE
Columns like From the Administrator's Chair, discuss important issues in a popular forum that represents the public sphere, where academics and non-academics alike can read, understand, and have equal access to, the information and advice being offered in these opinion pieces that can then be incorporated into their own research and practice. In fact, more and more administrators seem to be intentionally engaging in the media to reach audiences beyond those in narrow academic fields. I think there are a few possible reasons for that.
While some administrators intentionally build media profiles to establish themselves as subject matter experts, others do it to popularize and bring visibility to certain fields of study, to disseminate their ideas more widely to broader audiences, and to engage with the higher education community about critical educational issues, and to cause effective change in schools. Most media channels are open access, and where so much is accessible for free on the Internet, it makes sense that these are the types of venues are where we are seeing more of an administrative presence.
In writing this blog post, I really had to think through what made these "everyday" types of administrative discourse important, and felt motivated to share these FTAC columns in my own workplace. I picked up the stack of University Affairs magazines that I have at my workstation and left them in a common area where they could be shared and read by my colleagues. I also included my favourite FTAC columns in my Adminibrary, to spark new conversations that help us, as a community of educational administrators, to push the boundaries of what is possible in this field.
Ideas for Sharing Everyday Discourse
Nothing is more important to me than equipping my readers with actionable ideas that you can take and apply to your own study and practice of educational administration. I hope you feel inspired to action, to have the courage to start these conversations, and to speak plainly about creative ideas of your own that can improve the study and practice of educational administration + leadership.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Start your own mini administration library in your office or workspace
- Share magazine articles such as the column From the Administrator's Chair in University Affairs magazine with co-workers via e-mail or by leaving them in common areas for others to read
- Share your own administration projects at research days or showcases
- Share podcasts about education and creative leadership
- Start an inter-office educational leadership book club or an online book club on Goodreads
- Start your own micro-blog on Twitter and tweet or re-tweet education articles about administrative issues
- Re-write an academic journal article into a magazine article and pitch it to print or online education magazines
- Take photos of your own experience studying, researching, teaching, or practicing administration and share them on Instagram (write 100 words about each photo to give it context)
- Incorporate content in print and online advice columns written by other administrators into strategic planning meetings and work retreats
- Talk to each other! Begin conversations with other administrators in your workplace about your ideas.
The field of educational administration and leadership needs both good scholarship and a presence in digital and print educational media and social media networks. Many educational administrators have never been enrolled in an educational policy studies course in their lives, and may not be aware of the kinds of academic writing being done in this field. Sharing publicly-accessible administrative discourse means that everybody wins.
*Note: From the Administrator's Chair is published in every second issue of the magazine and is available to read for free on the University Affairs website.