Thursday, February 13, 2020

Visible and Available

Teacher-centered principals visit classrooms all the time.  They do so without doing official walkthroughs.  They visit without looking to coach or guide the teacher.  They visit to simply give praise and notice something good!  If the teaching and learning aren't exactly easy to praise, the principal can talk to kids.  Build relationships.  It only takes minutes!

A teacher-centered principal is available.  An open-door policy means that teacher can walk right in when the door is open.  The door doesn't always need to be open.  Close it when you need to.  Leave a note on your door stating why it is closed.  Teachers typically respect the amount of work principals do.

Being available also means making sure you are available before school each day.  Walking around the building before the tardy bell rings can do wonders for your visibility and your availability.  Likewise, walking around after dismissal does the same thing.  It doesn't need to be every day, but often enough for teachers to see you regularly for no specific reason at all.  It is tough when you need administrative support just a bit late and there never seems to be an administrator around.

Personally, I believe the principal should almost always arrive prior to anyone's morning duty each and every day.  If the first teachers hit their duty spots at 7:05 a.m., I believe the principal should be on campus by that time most days.  It is disheartening for teachers to see the campus administration rolling in after the official start time for all teachers.  Personally again, I believe the campus administration should stay extra late every now and then and walk around the building.  It is important to touch base with the teachers who stay late.

A teacher-centered principal also asks for feedback anonymously on a regular basis.  It is important to do so more often than the annual district survey.  Principals should ask often enough so that teachers believe that their input is valued.

Visible and available.

***  Also, teacher-centered principals make these things happen realistically.  If you are the last one on campus for a couple of evening events, give yourself some grace and sleep an extra 30 minutes.  If you need to leave once a week a few minutes early to see your own kid's basketball game, by all means go!  ***

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Walk the Talk

There are plenty of folks to tell us that the job of a campus administrator is to create a culture for teachers to thrive.  They tell us that the principal has the power to mold a school culture either positively or negatively.  An excellent school culture for teachers makes an excellent school for student learning.

"We do what is best for kids!"

This is definitely at the heart of what good schools do.  Successful principals spend a great deal of time doing what is best for teachers.  In a teacher-centered school, principals walk the talk.  The principal makes sure his/her actions match his/her words.

For example, if the school leadership spends time talking about engaging lessons, then every PD opportunity needs to model engagement.  Don't give teachers feedback about engagement levels in their classrooms if you don't ask them for feedback during your faculty meetings.

Another example, every time you interact with a kid in front of the staff, you are modeling how you want them treated.  Every time.  Sure, there may a few outliers that require a much more stern interaction.   The teachers know which kids are the outliers.

Also, teaching is not an eight-hour-day job.  Teachers are expected to get it "all" done regardless of how many hours it takes.  Principals need to model that willingness as well.  Sure, teachers and principals can take work home.  School leaders also need to model a willingness to occasionally stay late and support the teachers who stay at school after hours.  Principals should be one of the first ones in the door every day too.  Model your willingness to be there!

A final example, make your own personal learning and improvement efforts transparent.  Teachers are expected to get better throughout the year.  Learning and improvement is a never-ending process for teachers.  School leaders need to publicly share their learning and improvement efforts.   Share your goals.  Get their feedback.  Model your desire to improve and the work you put into it! 

If you say that your BIG ROCKS are higher-level thinking skills, kind and considerate children, and writing across the curriculum, be sure that pretty much everything you do touches on one of those rocks.  It can't be a big rock if you rarely address it.

A teacher-centered principal walks the talk.