I was a big fan of the recent series on Dangerously Irrelevant about what teachers want their administrators to realize. As a school Principal going into my sixth year with my current school, I’m looking for ways to grow and expand professionally, and appreciated the candid responses the educators provided. After reading the posts, I wondered what advice would be shared in the opposite direction, from administrators to teachers. After I commented as much, Scott invited me to be one of the contributors for this new series. Let me start off by saying that I’m generally a blog-reader, not a blog-writer, so coming up with these ideas has been a challenge for me over the last couple weeks.
I’m privileged to work with an amazing staff who truly care for our students, and work hard to see them succeed. The vast majority of all of the teachers I have worked with in my role as an administrator have been fantastic, however, I am firmly of the mindset of continuous improvement, even the best can be better. So as I tried to come up with some general thoughts, here is what I’ve come up with: We are a team of professionals who come together to serve the students and make learning our goal.
I moved across the country to take my administrative position. I was struck by how isolating it can be to serve as a school administrator. While I spend most of my days talking to people, I often feel like an outsider. So my first thought for teachers: Realize we are a team. Please don’t look at your administrator as an “us against him” scenario. We as administrators care about the same things you do, and we can accomplish more when we work together. In order for that to work we need open relationships. Talk to your administrator honestly and keep us in the loop. If you’re having a problem, let us know. Probably the worst situations I have had to deal with result when a teacher has not given me a heads-up on something before it blew up, or the teacher tried to cover something up. As an administrator, I feel my role is to support my staff in their growth, but in order to do that I need an honest perspective of the challenges and successes you have had. Don’t isolate your administrator; keep them informed of both the good and the difficult points of your job.
I firmly believe that the profession of education needs a dose of professionalism. Teachers need to be proud of their profession, and need to take it seriously. I’ve heard many great speakers talk about the nobility of education and the pride we should take in our role, but along with that come the responsibilities of making sure we stay current and learn best practices. As educators we all need to build professional networks, and ways to stay up-to-date on what is changing in our profession. Along the same lines teachers need to present themselves as professionals; this can range from everything from the way we contact parents to the clothes we choose to wear. If teachers want to be paid and respected as highly educated and professional people, it is important that we play that role.
As a charter school principal I am probably more keenly aware of the ideals of school choice than a majority of public school administrators. Regardless of whether choice is a daily concern, I believe that teachers need to realize that schools are setup for students. The students and their families are our clients, and we serve them. No, we don’t bend over backwards to make their lives easier, but we do need to realize schools are there for the kids, not to give us a place to hang out during the day, but a place where students needs come first. I’ve heard horror stories about teachers at other schools who do not respond to phone calls or emails, and with whom it takes weeks to get an appointment with a teacher. Teachers need to understand we are in a service industry, and that our students and their families are the client.
While it is the last thing I bring out in my thoughts, it is probably the most important point: learning is our goal. Truly preparing our students for their future is the purpose of this learning… not preparing them to fill in bubbles, not preparing them for the classrooms of 50 years ago, and not preparing them to drop out of high school. We need to help our students learn the 21st century skills they are going to need for their future, and I don’t mean just technology, but the ability to think for themselves, the ability to analyze, question and create. Teachers need to be spending more time at the higher end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, helping students to develop their creativity and higher order cognitive abilities and less time with textbooks, rote memorization and mundane tasks. Let’s make learning fun and exciting for our students. Let’s engage them and teach them what they will really need to know for their future!
I love my role as an administrator. I have the opportunity to go into the classrooms of some fantastic teachers nearly every day and see the great things they are doing with students. I want to support them, I want to help them to serve as the professionals they are, to help the school succeed and to make sure that the students leave our school with what they need. I believe that teachers and administrators need to be a team of professionals who come together to serve the students and make learning our goal.