Scott McLeod has asked a weeks worth of teachers to guest post about what what they need from administrators.
I’m not one of them, but it wouldn’t hurt to throw my opinions out there.
I’ve been thinking about this a bit, since I am now in my seventh year of teaching, and will have my seventh principal. Yep – I’ve had a different principal every year that I’ve taught. I’ve seen how they managed me, how they managed the school, and how well they accomplished what they were trying to do. The core of my philosophy on administrators came about while I was reading If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. What struck me, repeatedly, is that all of the advice for how administrators should treat their teachers echoed the same advice one would give a teacher on how to get the most out of their students. Soft skills for administrators are not that different from the soft skills for teachers.
1) Make it easy for the teachers to do their jobs. Get rid of extra paperwork1. Make it easy for them to get materials they need. During PD, make sure the time is spent on something that will improve their craft. Give them tools to help with discipline (but don’t try to do it for them). Teachers have a lot of stuff going on – the more they have to do that isn’t directly related to student learning, the less effectively they’ll be able to do their jobs.
2) Make your expectations clear. This goes on both a campus wide and individual level. If you need teachers to be involved in campus wide discipline, let them know how. If you expect them to pay attention during staff meetings, and not knit, grade, or browse the innertubes on their laptops, let them know. If there are more than 3 teachers on your campus doing something you didn’t think they should be doing, you probably didn’t do a good job of communicating your expectations.
3) Let your teachers make mistakes. My biggest learning has come from figuring out when I did something wrong, and how to do it right the next time around. My biggest growth has happened when I’m in an environment where I am comfortable taking risks, knowing that I can learn from both my successes and failures. My most stunted years have been those where I feel I need to stay close to the beaten path. As a caveat, make sure that when your teachers do fail, they become learning opportunities – a teacher who gets comfortable with failure is doomed.
4) Make sure to treat your teachers as individuals. If you have 4 teachers who continually come to school dressed inappropriately, don’t announce it at large to the entire staff, deal with them individually. The people who need to hear it won’t get the message with a large announcement, the people who hear it will just be annoyed that you’re wasting their time. Find each teachers strengths, and build and reinforce those. Find their weaknesses, and help them overcome them.
1 My current school has computerized attendance and grade submission. Every period I need to submit attendance online. 4 times a semester I need to enter grades. On top of this, I need to submit a (handwritten) attendance summary, and duplicate signed copies of each of those grade reports at the end of each semester, even though all of that information is readily available (to administrators, not necessarily teachers). I need to hand in a printed out certificate that I’ve completed my child abuse prevention training, even though they notify me that I’ve completed the training and just haven’t handed in the paperwork. Why? It’s a couple hours worth of work that is completely unnecessary.