Heading into a new school year, a teacher shares her hopes for improved communication in an open letter to school principals and administrators.
Dear School Administrator,
A simple online search for “teacher-principal relationship” offers a quick look at the many critical topics that impact this relationship: Common Core, educational reforms proposals in political campaigns, charter schools… The list goes on. When I checked in with a colleague returning to the classroom this fall, though, there was only one critical topic: A request for your support.
To help keep this simple, here are a few suggestions to help kick off this new school year by bridging the gap between teachers and administrators.
Tip #1: Perfect Attendance
We ask this of our students, and it seems fair to ask this of administrators, too. After all, we teachers are working very hard in our classrooms to create a unified, creative learning environment for our students. Kids who are off task, be it disrespectful or disruptive too often, are given many warnings, parent contacts, and perhaps even partial lunch detentions. Barring any emergencies, can you be at weekly student concerns meetings?
As you know, the academic and behavioral data presented along with teacher anecdotes, allows for important discussions that identify possible patterns and challenges that may present themselves is invaluable. For me, having this discussion with you helps me isolate variables such as whether this is a singular subject issue or if the student is demonstrating behavioral and/or anecdotal patterns across multiple classes. Did you know the student last year? Have you had any interactions with them yet?
Tip #2: Informally You
A colleague of mine appreciates administrators doing “3×3” visits, as the schools sometimes call them, typically in the beginning of the year. Consider carrying out this practice for the entire school year. The administrator visits the classroom for maybe 5-10 minutes, leaves a note (often on a 3×3 Post It) of something they observed that they enjoyed, leaves it on the teacher’s desk, and goes on to the next room. No formal observation here! Spontaneous visits like this let the teacher and students know that administrators don’t just come to classrooms when there’s a problem. Like any relationship, time together helps build bonds. And if it does turn out to be an evaluation year for a teacher, your familiarity with their students and setting will be a win-win for both of you.
Tip #3: Getting Woke
Please ask for our input — and use it. Veterans such as myself have a wealth of knowledge and rookies might have fresh ideas, including more ways to include new technology. Perhaps the school is trying new bell schedules or professional development. Consider collaboration with teachers and staff to create more shared spaces in our school. Could you walk into our rooms and instruct a Google classroom lesson? Can we use your office if we need an impromptu (and private) conference room? How interesting would a school be with boundaries blurred between administrators and teachers? Closer relationships can help to close the achievement gap and help all of our students meet their goals.
In closing, I know I’m asking for your time and trust, but both are critical to build strong relationships among staff and a caring, productive environment for students. Let’s start this year off with a candid conversation. What suggestions do you have for us? And how can I support you?