What I'd love my principals to know

If you are an administrator, there are so many things your teachers want to tell you, but maybe they aren't free to speak their minds.  Here are the things that made my administrators great (or not so great.)  Click here to see things from the teacher's point of view.


I've been teaching for a long time.  I've had a number of principals.  Some of them have been amazing leaders, inspiring the teachers to do their best.  They enjoyed being with their teachers, were very supportive of new ideas and helpful when there were issues, and most importantly, they seemed to remember what it was like to be a teacher.  Then there is the other type of principal.  The type who makes you hate going to work everyday.  The type who looks to find you doing wrong instead of noticing what you do right.  The type who has a small group of favorites who get rewarded even if they aren't doing well.  Well, I'm TIRED.  I'm FRUSTRATED.  I'm ANGRY.  So, I'd like to tell those principals out there (good and bad) just what I (and I'm sure many of you) would like them to know.

To the great principals I had, thank you!  Here's what I loved about working for you:

1. You made teaching a pleasure.
I loved that you earned respect by being caring, tough, and fair all at once. You trusted me to do my job, you made me excited to do fun things with my students, and you shared my successes with me. You noticed when I did something well, you helped me when I needed help, and you listened when I had a problem.  

2.  You asked me how I was doing.
It seems small, yes, but to actually care how your teachers are doing is something that some administrators need a lot of work on.

3.  You came to my room often, just to see what great lessons I was doing.
Thank you for not just coming in twice a year on evaluation day.  I loved that you cared enough to see what I was doing even if it wasn't some pony show scripted out on some pointless form. It also did wonders for my nervousness when it wasn't weird to have you in my room.

4.  You remembered what it was like to be a teacher.
You remembered the exhaustion, the frustration, and joys.  In fact, you worked harder than I did, so you were probably even more exhausted than I was.  I appreciate your long hours and your hard effort.  It is what made the school great.  (I should say makes, because it still is a great school!)  Supervising school events might be part of your job, but all of the extra time away from your family is noticed by everyone in the building.

5.  You made meetings interesting. 
We didn't sit through long hours of PD that no one cared about.  You prepared for the meetings, brought up pertinent points, gave great training on things that worked, and you didn't make us do demeaning tasks.

6.  You like students, and you try to know all of them, not just those who are in trouble.
I find it very sad that only the trouble-makers are known in some schools.  The straight A student, what's her name?  You knew that, too.  Enough said.

7.  You found ways to make me believe in myself.
When a lesson was awesome, you made a point to tell me.  If I needed help improving something, I was never scared to ask you to come in my room and give me suggestions.  I valued you as a teaching resource.

8.  You respected my students and my classtime.
Thank you for not interrupting my class when you came in.  I love that the learning could continue to happen and we were not expected to drop everything for THE PRINCIPAL!

9.  You realized that some parts of teaching are just not fun, and you tried to make the necessary parts tolerable.
We have data.  We know it is not the most exciting thing for everyone, yet we know we need to look at it.  Thank you for allowing us to do this in meaningful and productive ways.  Thank you for providing time outside of planning time to do this.  Thank you for understanding which teachers could do intervention effectively and for giving them the means to do this.  Thank you for understanding and providing training if you were asking us to do something out of our area of expertise.

10. You respected my time.
If you asked me for a meeting, you were there, unless there was a major incident.  If you held a meeting, you were ready.  If you had busywork that was mandated from somewhere above, you at least made time for me to do it.  You didn't ever expect me to do these things at night or on the weekend.  You realized that this was for me, for family, and for the many hours of preparation and grading that I would still be trying to finish.

Now, we all know that some principals can use a little (I'm being nice here) improvement.  Here's what I'd love for those principals to know:


1.  I like my time to be respected.
If a meeting starts at 3:00, please start it 3:00.  If it ends at 4:00, please end it at 4:00.  If I have hours of redundant training videos to watch (each year, the same videos!) please give me time to do that.  I have a family, and if I have to make the choice between yet another awesome viewing of "Blood-born Pathogens" or spending 30 minutes with my son playing outside, I will choose my son.

2.  Don't play favorites.
It is obvious.  Please remember, you are dealing with trained professionals who spend all day long doing their best to treat students equally.  We know that we need to make an effort to let everyone pass out papers, pick up supplies, or go on an errand for us.  We make an effort to call on students equally.  Sure, some students are easier, but we do our best to treat everyone the same.  That said, we can tell when one teacher has a better schedule, works less, gets the "good" kids, or has lesser/easier duties. Just don't do this. It's so uncool of you.

3. Don't assume I am doing something wrong.
Please don't send me some passive aggressive email thanking me for remembering to be at work on time.  Especially on a day that I came in early to work, but chose to leave my light off to make the most of that time and not be disturbed.  Especially not if I was at work before you.   Don't assume the worst.  Check that I'm not actually there.  If I'm not there, your first thought could be that of a human, not a robot.  Try thinking like this: "Oh, she's not here.  Hmm...she is never late.  I hope she was not in an accident or does not have a sick child.  Maybe I should see if everything is all right before I send an attack email at 8 a.m. that will just ruin her day.  Maybe.  Just maybe it would be nice if I remembered that she was a person with feelings."

4.  Don't assume that I get excited about data.
I'll do it.  It is a necessary part of education now, but don't think that everything I ever do in my classroom will revolve around your color-coded charts.  I would love all of my kids to be blue and not red or yellow, but I don't see them as little statistics.  I see them as humans, and I know, often long before filling out your chart, what their strengths and weaknesses are.  Please know what my skills are and where I can intervene effectively.  Does it make sense for me to daily 5 minute lessons on irony in French class?  No?  Okay, so maybe this is not an effective way for kids to master irony.  English class, sure!  French 1 class?  Umm...how does this lead into a lesson on the weather phrases?

5.  Don't interrupt my class.
Please come in.  I'd love for you to see what we are doing!  However, if you come in, please don't think that I will be stopping my teaching to discuss textbook orders, data, or any other thing that can be done at another time.  Oh, and don't expect my students to stand, bow to you, or treat you as some impressive stranger.  Don't be a stranger to them, and then it won't be so weird and formal to see you.

6.  Be a teacher leader.
I'd love to learn from you. I assume you have made it to where you are by knowing something about teaching.  Show me what I can do to be the best.

7.  Give me the resources to do what I need, and if you cannot, please respect what I have to work with.
I understand budgets.  I worked in one of the lowest-budgeted schools in my city.  I also worked in a school where I had everything I needed and more.  I don't think either one changed my ability to teach or give great lessons.  However, when working in a severely under-budgeted school, I had only an overhead projector (you remember, the old ones with the clear sheets you had to write on).  I had no chalkboard, no whiteboard, and definitely no Smartboard or Promethean.  So, overhead projector it was...I could live with it, as I really had no other choice.  That said, please give me a means to post my objectives for my 5 preps, or don't count me down when they are not posted on my ... wait, there was nowhere to post them!

8.  I love my students.  They are the joy of my job, and the reason I deal with you everyday.  Please respect them.
Don't yell or cuss at them.  Don't talk down to them.  Don't make them feel like criminals.  If you do this, some of them very well will go down that road.  Be nice, fair, tough, and caring all at once.  You can do this.  I have seen administrators much smaller than me (I'm a pretty little bit) command respect from big, possibly intimidating-looking  students without yelling, demeaning, or poorly treating students.  Respect is not just given in all cultures.  You must earn it where I live, and if you don't, big salary or not, you are not going to be an effective leader for students or teachers.

9.  Come to school events.
How awful is it for teachers to do fund-raisers, even to give their own money for school events, and for the principals to not even show up?!?  Way to show you appreciate everyone's time and effort.

10.  Don't waste my time on PD if you haven't planned well.
Would you want me to come in and do lessons that weren't effective, weren't well thought-out, and didn't deliver results?  I didn't think so.

Did I miss anything?  What would you like to say to thank an administrator?  What do you think some could work on?  Please feel free to leave your comments!






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