What do teachers want to know from their chief administrator?
We received some very insightful answers to this question from people around the world. Below are a few examples of this great feedback:
Two things: You can talk to me about anything and I've got your back. The best administrators listen and the staff trusts them to support them when they need help. I thought this was axiomatic until I had an administrator who never listened and no one trusted. The whole school went from being a great place for kids to being a sink hole in less that a year. It taught me how important it is to have good Admin. I had taken it for granted before that. -- Dr. Patricia Porter
In my experience as both teacher and school administrator, I know that teachers want to communicate with the chief administrator in the school. Aside from the usual general information messages, teachers want to hear words of support, reinforcement,credible leadership, inspiration. If a senior administrator visits a teacher's class, teacher would like to hear a few words about the class. One positive observation goes a long way. Teachers look to educational leaders for leadership that is visionary, motivating and that makes them feel that they are team members rather than "soldiers". -- Judy Stein
I have known secondary administrators who don't want to put their teachers on edge during classroom visits. But as a coach, teachers told me something quite different--They said, "We want them to come in and see what we're doing, we want feedback, we want to know if we're on the right track." In addition to positive comments, teachers also appreciate small suggestions for improvement that come in the form of questions, "I noticed Jimmy didn't easily get into a group--what might be an instructional [strategy] that would work with Jimmy and his peers to change this? Every solid teacher I worked with (A Big chunk of the population I served) wanted to be seen for their hard work, and get better for their kids. -- Mariah Cone
Teachers want to be valued and respected in the communication processes of the administration. They are a vital part of the team that is delivering an inspiring educational experience each day, and the wise administrator will implement the following in order to increase teacher engagement and the quality of the faculty culture.
1. BEFORE sending out information to parents, students, or the whole community, share it with the teachers FIRST! Begin with the faculty leadership, such as department chairs or instructional team leaders, then continue with all teachers and staff. This is the first Law of the Grapevine: People derive the value of your relationship based on the SEQUENCE in which you share information. Meaning, teachers will determine how important they are to you as the leader of the school based on whether you communicate with them as a high priority.
2. OBSERVE their classrooms on a regular basis, providing feedback and support. Effective teachers want to see you in their classrooms because it shows you really care about what they are doing by taking the time out of your busy schedule to watch, listen, and learn. Lurking in the hallways outside of the door isn't enough, neither is a 5 minute "drive-by" to check the box on having done an "observation." I heard from one experienced teacher who said she hadn't been observed by an administrator in 17 years, yet had received multiple evaluations of her work! That's absurdly weak leadership. Engage in professional dialogue with teachers, recognizing that the job of the administrator is adult education and support so that they can provide the best service to students.
3. Share stories about what is happening throughout the school. Teachers are often isolated in their classrooms, without the opportunity to learn from the successes and lessons learned from other professionals in the building. Give them incremental "picture postcards" of what you want to accomplish during the year, so they can emotionally see the goals to be attained.
Great administrators are great communicators. Develop the skills and habits that will maximize relationships and engagement within your faculty, and you will be in the best position to experience school growth.