What Teachers Really Want From Their Administrators
Ask any teacher why they chose a career in education, and chances are they will tell you that they have a passion for making a difference in students’ lives, and that they want to help their students learn, grow, and develop so they can be successful. You’re probably never going to hear a teacher say that they went into teaching because they wanted to attend meetings, coordinate an endless number of initiatives, and navigate administrative burdens and “office politics.”
Yet all too often in the modern educational environment, a disconnect between teachers and administrators takes hold, creating frustration, discontent, and burnout among even the most passionate and committed teachers. Far too many teachers claim that they feel their administrators are out of touch with the realities of classroom life, and make their lives more difficult rather than serving as inspiring leaders. Certainly this isn’t the case in every school or district, but with so many teachers struggling with their administrators, it only begs the question “What do teachers want from their leaders?”
Whether you are an experienced administrator, are considering earning a degree — learn more about what an Ed.S degree can do — to become an administrator, or are in the process of working on an advanced education degree, keeping the following teacher priorities in mind will help you be a better administrator.
Model Expected Behavior
Many teachers expect their administrators to model the behaviors that they expect from teachers and others within the school. A principal, dean, or other leader is key to establishing the culture of the school, and teachers appreciate those leaders who adopt a “do as I do” approach to leadership, rather than a “do as I say” approach. Typically, this means demonstrating a willingness to listen and really learn about the issues that are affecting both teachers and students, working collaboratively to develop solutions, and creating a positive atmosphere.
When teachers are empowered, meaning that they have the ability to help determine the school’s goals and policies, and exercise their professional judgement as it relates to what and how to teach and how to manage their classrooms, they tend to have higher levels of morale and productivity. Teachers aren’t looking to be micromanaged or bogged down by endless policies. They want to be recognized as the professionals they are, and given the opportunity to be creative, take some risks, and make decisions based on what’s best for their students and the goals of the school.
A collaborative environment is proven to be more supportive of empowerment, and teachers want the opportunity to work collaboratively both with each other and with administration. They want a seat at the table, and the ability to be involved in the decisions that affect their daily work.
Protect Teachers’ Time
Professional development, meetings about school issues, discipline discussions, etc., are all important. However, teachers are very busy, and often overwhelmed by the sheer number of responsibilities on their plates. Effective administrators are respectful and protective of teachers’ time, only holding meetings when absolutely necessary (e.g., sharing information via email or memo rather than a meeting) and limiting the number of administrative tasks, such as discipline and school operations-related tasks, that they are asked to take on.
Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Teachers who do little more than stand in front of the class reading a PowerPoint presentation aren’t generally considered effective. Yet all too often, teacher “professional development” is little more than that. Make professional development opportunities more meaningful to teachers by engaging them, allowing for the exchange of ideas, and encouraging discussion. Teachers want to leave feeling inspired, and like they spent their time wisely, so facilitate that as best you can.
These are but a few of the most common requests that teachers make of their administrators, at all grade levels. Above all, though, teachers want administrators to understand the pressures they are under, and the challenges they face in the classroom each and every day. When everyone works together toward that mutual understanding, and teachers are given the voice they desire — and deserve — than everyone’s jobs will become more meaningful and fulfilling, not to mention just a little bit easier.