I have worked under a lot of different principals since starting my teaching career over a decade ago. My last principal and assistant principal were so horrific, I consistently have nightmares about them. In fact, I was having one just this morning. When I woke up from it is when I decided to finish this post!
It is shocking to me just how bad many of them were at leading a group of teachers and young people. I know that there is a learning curve in this job, but there are still some steps you can take so that your staff will respect you as their leader.
I asked a bunch of great teachers and parents for tips they would give to their principal if given the chance!
Ask for feedback
Set aside time to meet with each teacher and get their feedback on what has worked or not worked. Your teachers contain an immeasurable amount of wealth that many principals just are not tapping into.
Take time to get to know your staff
That doesn't mean that you have to become best friends with them, but you should know their names and a few personal details about them. The wealth of knowledge you will get from this is priceless. You will learn your teachers strengths and weaknesses and how to build them up. I cannot tell you the amount of principals I have heard tell their staff, "Make a connection with your kids. Kids work better for teachers they like." Take this same message and apply it to yourself!
Be a presence in your school
I have had a principal who pretty much only interacted with her staff through sending out reprimand emails from her office. In December, there were still a lot of students who didn't know who she was. Be out greeting the buses, roam the halls during class changes and high five your students and teachers, be in the cafeteria at lunch. On the positive end, I had one principal who decided that he was going to challenge himself to pop into every teachers' classroom once a day and just ask how things are going.
Show compassion for your staff
I'm going to let you in on a secret...believe it or not...your teachers are human beings with emotions just like you! Sometimes we need to feel like you care about us as PEOPLE. Last year when I dislocated my knee and learned, while I was work, that the ER sent me home with it still dislocated. A co-worker went to my principal to tell her I needed to go back to the ER. Her response was, "It didn't happen on school property right?" Her lack of compassion made me, and many others, lose a lot of respect for her.
Find reasons to praise your staff often...ALL the teachers
It is amazing how far a simple praise can go in motivating people. Principals I have worked with tend to choose their favorites (Principal's pets) and consistently praise them in emails and faculty meetings. When your staff sees you being biased in this way, it is not going to encourage them to work harder. Find a reason, no matter how small to praise each member of your staff often.
Enforce rules and policies fairly and consistently
If it is your policy that everyone gets a letter in their file for being 2 minutes late to bus duty, than make sure that EVERYONE gets a letter who is late not just one or two teachers sometimes. If it is the your policy that if teachers are gone more than an hour you have to charge a teacher a half day, do so for every teacher. It is very confusing for people when rules and policies are semi enforced. Adults like clear expectations too!
Give constructive criticism or helpful feedback
I have worked for a few principals who failed to give any sort of feedback to teacher then passed out pink slips at the end of the year like it was Halloween candy. Think of us as your students and you want each of us to succeed! No teacher left behind!
Don't Micromanage your PROFESSIONAL staff
You hired professionals. Treat the teachers as such. Teachers went to college and majored in their discipline, chances are, you did not. Listen to your teachers when they say something will or won't work. Also, please, just assume that if we send a student to the office that we have already exhausted other options.
Don't send umbrella emails
I don't understand why so many principals send emails or messages to entire staff when there may be only one or two who need to be addressed. When you do address those staff member, don't judge until you have all the facts!
Don't waste time during staff meetings on nuts and bolts that could be covered in an email. Time is the most previous resource teachers have. If they feel it isn't being respected, you will have a lot of difficulty earning their trust. Also, Don't do a bunch of ice breakers at staff meetings...we all know each other, no need to do a scavenger hunt, name rocks, or do a trust fall together!
Pick me ups
Do give teachers a free jeans day once in awhile and let them leave 15 minutes early on a rainy Friday...It does wonders for morale.
Don't show favoritism to certain parents and not others. What it really does is make it so the other parents won't get involved.
Bring an atmosphere where every teacher matters and feels appreciated and valued. People work harder, miss work less, and are happier if they feel appreciated.
If you take some of these tips to heart you will be AMAZED at the boost in moral!
Thank you to the following contributors:
- Diane Dumas Abella of www.applesandbananaseducation.com
- Julie Jackson Amick
- Jen Breen Regan
- Anne Rozell
- Angela Marie Carter
- Emily Miller Duerring
- Karen Potter
- Stephanie Tyree
- Roberta Litten
- Dana W