By Teachers, For Teachers
Back-to-school time can be a very hectic time, and having a supportive administrator can make all the difference when you are a teacher. Teachers need to know that their principals have their backs and support them, especially if they are just starting out as a new teacher. In the book “Collaborative Leadership, Six Influences That Matter Most,” Peter M. Dewitt discusses how teachers don’t feel their voices are valued, and as leaders, principals have the opportunity to change that. By cultivating a positive teacher-administrator relationship, you can make going back to school an easy transition. Here are a few practical ways that you can make a difference.
School principals are typically responsible for creating the building’s daily schedule. This can include anything from teacher planning periods and special duties to the bell schedule and anything in between. With several different schedules, it’s practically impossible to make every teacher happy. However, it is possible to create a teacher-friendly schedule that can accommodate all teachers. You can start by first taking a teacher survey to find which teachers like to plan in the morning and which like to plan at the end of the school day. This should make it easier for you to accommodate their preferences. Next, understand that many teachers despise any duties that are assigned to them, so the best way to that you can make teachers happy is to create a schedule in which teachers only have to cover a few duties a month. If you really want to make it even easier on teachers, then you can take a survey and place the teachers on duties they actually don’t mind covering, like hall duty or bus duty. As teachers start to settle into their back-to-school routine, you must be flexible, because conflicts will arise and you will have to be prepared to make changes frequently.
One of the best ways that you can help teachers at back to school time is to make yourself available. The easiest way to do this is to have an open-door policy at the beginning of the school year. If you don’t like this idea because you think it will be too hectic at the start of the school year, then only offer this policy at specific times that are convenient for you. The purpose of having this policy is to show teachers that you support them, and that you are there if they need you. When teachers take up your offer, then take the time to listen to them. If you feel that you’re too busy at the moment to be of any help, then you can say, “I would love to hear your concerns and offer you advice, but at the moment I have a lot on my plate, let’s schedule a time later today where I can give you my full attention.”
One of the many duties you have as an administrator is to offer advice and direction, especially in the beginning of the school year to new teachers. Teachers just starting out will have a lot of questions, and besides pairing them with a mentor teacher, you should also be there to offer assistance. Teachers throughout any level of experience will always need direction at some point, and it’s your job to offer it to them. Make it a point in the beginning of the school year to check in with your teachers. Make your rounds and go room to room to just pop your head in and let them know that you’re there if they need you. If they do take you up on your offer, then make sure you listen first before jumping in and offering advice. Also, try not to force your opinion, just offer it to them and tell them why you think the way that you do.
Back-to-school time is not just hectic for you as the administrator, it’s also a busy time for your teachers too. They’re trying to welcome their students and make them feel comfortable while learning their new school routine. Sometimes the new school year also brings conflict and things arise, like a parent doesn’t see eye-to-eye with a teacher. When these types of situations occur, you need to support your teachers’ decisions and have their backs. When parents are complaining about a teacher and the principal sides with the parent, it undermines the teacher’s decision and shows the teacher (and the parent) that you don’t support the teacher. While there may come a time where you have no choice but to support the parent, in most cases it’s best to back your teachers. This shows them that you’re on their side, which is a great way to not only solidify your bond with the teachers, but it may also even increase the teachers’ drive to work for you.
If you’re wondering how you can be the most helpful to your teachers come back-to-school time, just support them. When you do so, you will have created a positive school climate that everyone wants to be a part of. There’s no better place to be in than a school environment where both teachers and administrators work together.
How do you support your teachers at back-to-school time?
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, Graduateprogram.org, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.