A recently published post outlining one teacher’s perception of the role of administrators in classroom success inspired a number of contributions from other educators. Here are the highlights of the original piece:
- Create a positive academic environment in the building
- Allow teachers the time to teach, prepare and assist students
- More expansive classroom observations
- Reduce disruptions to the bell schedule
- Allocate resources fairly
- Avoid unnecessary scheduling conflicts
The voices of other teachers
Readers were quick to add their own views on ways to improve the relationship between the administrative and teaching staffs.
One teacher with fifteen years of experience wrote: “The only thing I would add would be that teachers would want input into decisions. Being that they are the ones dealing with the students, teachers believe, rightly, that they know best how decisions affect students. This is not to say that teachers should make decisions, but they should have input into them.”
A question of trust and judgment
While this sentiment was expressed by others, another concern revolved around the word “trust”. One long-time educator stated: “When a student fails the first response from the administration is too often in the form of ‘What have you done to alleviate this situation?” Such an approach can leave the impression that teachers are not concerned with the best interests of the students. If we were, the logic would follow; we would have already done everything possible. There is an underlying sense that somehow we are not doing everything possible to ensure student success. It is almost as if they do not trust us to do what is in the best interest of every student. The better question would be ‘What steps beyond the classroom could help improve this individual’s performance?’”
It must be noted that these were the words of a teacher with decades of success. It is highly unlikely that these views would be appropriate for all teachers.
Finding ways to improve communication
Another recurring issue revolved around a lack of timely communication between the two groups. One teacher who is in the early stages of his career addressed this concern with the following story: “…today in a staff meeting, I was sitting and listening to them (administrative team) talking about upcoming changes. They were saying there was a new ISS (In School Suspension) room and Mr. so and so would run it 1, 3, 4, 5, and 8. Then much to my surprise they announced that I would run it 2, and Ms. so and so would run it 7. Apparently, next semester I’m in charge of the ISS room 2nd period. I had no idea. No one has mentioned to me that it was even a possibility… I just thought it was weird that they announced it school wide before even telling me.”
A matter of professional respect
One teacher shared a story about a bell schedule issue which led to a less than satisfactory interaction. The incident revolved around adjusting the school day because of an inclement weather situation. The focal point of contention was that it was the last day of a grading period—a critical time for testing—and the administrative staff did not factor this consideration into their decision making. Here is what happened when this teacher approached them with her concerns about the proposed solution.
“I walked into her (administrator’s) office and she says, very confrontationally, ‘So, what do you want to complain about?’ (To her credit, she since apologized for the tone) I told her, I wasn’t here to complain but to point out that it would be better if the schedule was changed to have more class time….(I came away feeling that) the administrator’s first response was confrontational and then dismissive clearly implying that she was doing the tough work and I was just complaining. Then there was an accusation—‘why are you doing this at the last minute’ –which was precisely what she was doing as well. At no point did I feel she was listening to what I was saying.”
A constantly evolving relationship
Of course these views express only one side of the equation and I am confident there are equally compelling and disturbing narratives from the perspective of administrators. The key point to be considered is that the importance of a strong and productive interaction among the entire school staff is critical to the academic success of the students. Consequently such dialogues must be encouraged and positive responses put forth by every group involved. It is a critical component for improving student performance.