Earlier in the year I wrote a post regarding the elements that I believe are essential for a master teacher. Although I believe that it takes years to become what would be considered a “master teacher”, if you are truly a master, your skills will ALWAYS be developing. It is essential that you continue to grown and find ways to connect and learn alongside of your students.
From the perspective of an administrator, it is important that I try to create an environment where teachers can have these qualities and it is conducive to them achieving excellence. I know that as an administrator, there is always the opportunity to not only help teachers in a positive way, there is always the road that will ensure teachers can never do their best. I am cognizant of this and try my best to create this environment for staff. As a new principal, I definitely have a lot to learn, but these are keys that I believe will help with staff.
- Trust – This is number one with staff not only in education, but with all organizations. If you show the people that work with you that you trust them to do their best job in the classroom, they are more likely to do it. Personally, I spend a lot of time in the classrooms not as a way to “watch” my teachers, but to show them that I am interested in what is going on in their classroom while also connecting with the kids in the school. Most teachers feel uncomfortable when an administrator walks into their classroom for the first time, so my goal is to be in there so often that it is just second nature to them. There is not one way that I can tell you to build trust with staff as every person is different, but I will tell you that it is essential that you build it.
- Support – The master teacher will still have areas of growth. No one is perfect nor will they ever get to that point. It is important that teachers feel they are supported in their classroom. For example, do not ever hesitate to ask a teacher what THEY need to become better and how you can facilitate this. Look for resources for opportunities for them and see what you can do to support their needs. I spend a lot of time asking for help via my Professional Learning Network on Twitter and to see if they have any resources to meet the needs of my teachers. I consider this part of my job It is also important that we do our best as administrators to allocate funds to staff to ensure that they are getting necessary professional development. As I have control over our school budget, I do my best to allocate as much money as possible to this area since it is people that make schools strong first. We have to put money into them first, before we start looking to other places. I do not set “limits” on money towards professional development, but look at the needs of the students and staff when requests come in. You definitely have to be say no when money is tight, but try to say “yes” more often.
- Connect – When I use this term, I think of it in two ways; connection with others and connection with yourself. Strength is always found in numbers and as an administrator you have the opportunity to see other teachers in your building. If you see something great from a teacher, ask them if they are willing to share it with others in the building either in a one-to-one setting or as a form of professional development. Give teachers the opportunity to work with one another to better the environment of the school because the best learning comes from one another.
- Focus on their strengths – I have talked about this a lot in my blog and believe that it is essential that we focus on what our staff does well BEFORE we focus on their areas of growth. A master teacher will still have things that they could improve on (Michael Jordan did fairly well without a strong 3 point shot along with Wayne Gretzky being pretty slow) but they can be great if they continue to help them build upon their passions and strengths. I have tried to show my staff that there are several areas that I need to improve on and that it is okay if I am not where I would like to be. As school based teams, we have others that can pick up where we lack and this is how we can make our schools great! The master teacher knows that they can grow and will continue to learn in a way that best suits their needs; this goes back to trust.
- Relax – Enjoy what you are doing as an administrator and encourage your staff to do the same. Laugh together, share together, and have fun together. You are blessed to be working with kids and if they see that you enjoy what you do, they will pick up on it quickly and have the same attitude in your school. I believe I can be more effective as an educator if I enjoy what I do. I try my best to embody and encourage this with staff to help them become more effective.
It is also to ensure that you connect with your own staff. Learn about their lives and connect with them as people. I spent the first three weeks focusing on just getting to know my staff ONLY which got me behind in “paperwork” but paid off in so many ways the entire year. After those three weeks, I knew a lot about staff and continued to learn about them throughout the year. I will also continue this for the entirety of my career as if staff feel they are valued as people first, they will do much better at their job.
Although there characteristics are things that I believe are essential, it is so important that we talk to our teachers and ask them what they need to excel. I have talked about differentiated opportunities for staff, but painting all educators with a broad brush is unfair not only to them, but to our students. We need to ensure that we communicate with teachers in our school, treat them as partners in education, and listen to them to ensure that they have opportunities to reach their full potential.
What are your thoughts as educators and administrators? What do you need to do better in your classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts and learn from your perspectives.