Together we recently wrote a blog post called “Top 10 Tips for First Year Principals”. The post got a great reception and lots of conversations were started.
One of the comments that was made on Twitter was from Mr C and it said “Great post guys! I often wonder how I as a teacher can support my principal better? Any ideas?” And right away that got us thinking…..
As a principal, it’s our job to steer the ship. To lead the way. Did you know that nearly 30% of Principals who lead troubled schools quit each year? And that by year 3, half leave their job? You can read more about it here.
But a school runs as a team. As a family. It takes every single one of us. There are ways that we could all support each other. But we wanted to write a post with a few ideas on how teachers can best support school principals! (Do you have your own ideas? Share in the comments below!)
1. Ask your principal how they are doing or how things are going
As principals it is our job to check in with people and build relationships with everyone in
the building. However, it is great when a teacher stops by in the morning or comes up to us during recess and asks how we are doing. It might not seem like much, but we can both remember the people who have taken the time out of their schedule to come say hello and check in on us.
2. Talk to them when there is an issue
There will be times you will disagree with our actions or decisions. Always come to your principal first when there is an issue. We have to work together and trust each other. For example, some states like California have a union. If you go to the union before talking to your principal first that immediately breaks trust. Same goes for going to the district office with an issue before talking to your principal. We are both lucky that we have never had a problem with this at our school sites. Our teachers have come to us anytime there is a concern. There might be times you need to get others involved, but always talk to your principal first.
3. We don’t mind complaints, but bring solutions too
As leaders of the school, we don’t mind hearing complaints at all! We all need to grow and continually get better. But one thing that everyone can do is when you bring complaints to the table, be prepared to bring potential solutions as well. There’s nothing worse than hearing someone tell you how much they don’t like something, while offering no ideas on how to make it better. Share your frustrations but also share ideas on how to make it better!
4. Help promote your school
One thing that everyone wants to do is promoting the great things happening at your school. School administrators should be leading this charge in sharing your school story, but we need help! As teachers, any time that you can share the story of your classroom, students, and school, it benefits all! Share, share, share!
5. Connect with other teachers to bring new ideas to your school
The principal is only one person. No matter how connected they are, how many conferences they go to, how many books they read, they still need your help bringing new ideas to the school. The more connected you are with other teachers, the more great ideas you can bring to your campus. You will also have a different perspective than they will. So connect with other teachers either in person, or on social media like Twitter and Voxer and bring those great ideas to your principal.
6. Do your best to understand all the directions they are pulled in
Teachers understand how hard it is to meet the needs of all the students in their classroom. As a principal it feels the exact same way but instead of let’s say 30 kids in a class you have the needs of all of your teachers, secretaries, librarian, custodians, aides, psychologist, resource teacher, nurse and those are just the members of your staff. You then have usually over 1,000 parents that have different ideas of what needs to be happening at a school. There are so many people who need the principal and we are pulled in so many different directions. Just doing your best to understand that helps out your principal a lot.
7. Understand they are not the previous principal
This could be a good or bad thing depending on what you thought of the previous principal. We have no problem letting us know of traditions or great things the previous principal did but just know we are not them.
8. Never talk bad about your principal (or any staff) to members of the community
There might be frustrations with what is happening with your principal or a different teacher at your site. This goes back to the trust we talked about earlier. As soon as you talk about about a staff member to someone in the community you are breaking the trust we are working on building at our school. There are enough other people that like to bash educators, we need to be the ones being positive to the public about what is happening at our school and all of our staff members.
9. Let them know when something is going well
As a principal, a large portion of our day is spent dealing with upset staff, upset parents, upset central office, or disciplining students. Sometimes it can feel like we’re doing everything wrong and that everyone is angry or frustrated with us and we begin to lose sight of the great things going on. One way teachers can help with that is by letting us know when something is going well. When you had a great day, when you like an activity, when you just want to tell someone ‘thank you’. We want to celebrate with you. We need those moments so we can feel like every decision we’re making isn’t a terrible one.
10. Invite them
As principals, we’re constantly being pulled a million different directions (just like teachers!) and when that happens we forget or don’t know about every event going on on campus. We love being invited into classrooms. Whether that is to a class party, science experiment, to read to class, to team teach, whatever! We know it’s our responsibility to be seen and actively involved, but we also like when we’re invited too.
BONUS: If you have a first year principal just know they are going through a lot adjusting to their new job (especially the first two months)
There is definitely an adjustment when you become a principal. It doesn’t matter if your principal is coming from an assistant principal job or straight from the classroom. By doing your best to try and understand this adjustment will help them. It is especially important that you ask them how they are doing (tip number 1) the first month or two. They might not tell you, but it will mean the world!
This list is just a start. Everyone wants to feel needed, valued, supported. We may have been able to come up with a few ideas on how teachers can best support principals, but really this list could fit any position on a campus. The whole motivation and ideals behind this post was that we wanted to provide ideas for all of us to best support and build up those we work with.
Both of us love the ways our campus staff make us feel. We know we’re at the campus we were meant to be at. But we’ve heard so many stories from other leaders who don’t feel that way (for a variety of reasons). It’s going to take all of us, but together we can build a school where every individual feels valued and important.
In the end we know it is on the principal to support teachers and staff. But anything you can do as a teacher to help support them as well will help them be a better leader, and in turn will make your school a better place for our students.