I’ve worked under two different administrations, but at the same job. The admin has changed– not my job, not me, not my coworkers, not my curriculum, not the students, not the parents, or anything else. This creates a unique opportunity to make observations in this conrolled environment. Both admins had their pros and cons, as any person has strengths and weaknesses. I’ve decided to focus on the positive. I firmly believe that (when in a controlled environment) the following 5 practices, when followed by administration, foster a community of positive, team-spirited, hard working teachers. This, ultimately, is what will be the best environment for students.
- TRUST: Assume your teachers are making the best decisions. If you need to question them, do so in a way that makes this assumption. Example: An art teacher chooses five pieces of artwork for a display for some big event. They are all pieces created by girls. Assume that the teacher realizes this, but has ultimately made the best decision. Should you need to question the teacher, begin by assuming he/she has recognized this. “Mr. Art Teacher, The art selection is phenomenal. Thank you for your hard work. It looks like the boys must have messed up their art work. Is this group of boys having trouble focusing in Art class?” Assume the fact that there is a lack of male representation a fault of the students, not the teacher! WHY would it be more likely that the teacher be faulty than the students? Isn’t it more likely that the boys’ work was not up to par, than your well educated art teacher is purposely picking girls art work? Your art teacher is a professional. Assume it so. Trust them.
I have one more thing to say about trust, because it is SO IMPORTANT. Just as you would not be happy if your teachers went over your head, do not go over theirs. The chain of command is SO important to teach- both to students and to parents. If a parent emails to complain about an assignment given in English, begin by asking said parent if they’ve spoken to Mrs. English teacher. If a student has a concern of bullying in the locker room, encourage them to talk to Mr. or Mrs. Physical Education Teacher… or to Mrs. School Counselor. DELEGATE and TRUST that your staff are well educated professionals who know how to do their job. Thanks.
2. COMMUNICATION- Everyone LOVES being part of a team. It’s human nature. Create that environment. How? Encourage communication. Do not announce things that could be in an email. You’re wasting our time. Meet regularly to discuss, as a TEAM, how you’re going to do things. Talk. Listen to each other. Teachers go into teaching because we WANT to BE THE GOOD. Let us do that! My word. I cannot over emphasize this.
These first two topics, trust and communication, are what are most important to any relationship anywhere. But I have a few more comments.
3. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT- You should know what your teachers do, and you should thank them for it. This should, at least part of the time, be in person. It can be in passing. Acknowledge that they go above and beyond and thank them. This makes them feel personally invested in the program and encourages them to continue. They feel like they are part of something bigger, that someone noticed, and it just makes them feel good. It only takes 5 seconds. Do it. Teachers don’t do things for the ‘thank you,’ but that shouldn’t matter. It costs you nothing. I do multiple ‘science’ visits with our lower grades. I’ve had one admin who has noticed and thanked me in person following each visit. The other admin never even noticed. I can tell you first hand, it makes a WORLD of difference.
4. SUPPORT- verbally and physically- Yes, this kind of extends off #3, but it’s a little different, so I gave it a new number. Students need to see you in the hallway. Not everyday. Sporadically. Keep those kiddos on their toes. We NEED you to be present. We need you to follow through verbally with students. “So I heard you have a social studies test Friday. When do you plan on studying?” Let the students know that you have high expectations of them, and our classes are important and are to be respected. They will follow suit.
5. LEAD BY DOING- Every teacher in my school has lunch duty at some point in the week. The majority of us each lunch together, minus those who have that fateful lunch duty. Last year, I organized a monthly potluck meal for me and my fellow teachers. Because I organized it, after I would get my food, I would go stand in for lunch duty to allow the ‘missing’ teachers to go get their food. I didn’t really think about it at the time. For our final potluck, while standing in the cafeteria, missing out on the comradery of my friends, I realized that I had missed EVERY. SINGLE. POTLUCK. by doing this. But that’s what a leader does, I realized. You lead by doing.
In short, trust your professional teachers, delegate, communicate with them and foster an open communication environment, say thank you, know what they do, be present, and lead by doing.
Teachers are human beings who chose their profession because they wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. Treat us that way.
Do you agree with this? What would you add to this list?