4 Ways for Administrators to Foster Positive Relationships with their Teachers
Educating students truly takes a village. From teachers to administrators, board members to maintenance staff, there are a lot of adults involved in making schools productive and safe places for students to learn.
So often the focus is placed upon the relationships between these adults and the students they reach. However, maximizing the value in these staff-to-student interactions requires the adults to form positive bonds amongst themselves as a school faculty.
As administrators, it is important to acknowledge that part of the responsibility that comes with running a productive school for students also includes finding ways to forge encouraging and productive relationships with staff members.
Here are four key ways administrators can foster positive relationships with their teaching staff:
Administrators have to make many important decisions to ensure their schools are effectively serving students. It becomes easier to build trust and buy-in for these decisions when they are made and explained out in the open.
This type of honesty and openness can be transformative for a school’s culture. Employing a transparent administrative style helps to pull back the curtain and prevent a school climate governed by assumption, rumor, and guess-work. Instead, teachers can operate based upon clear expectations and an understanding of the justifications behind them. Unsurprisingly, “because I said so” doesn’t have the same positive effect.
The best administrators find impactful ways to both keep their faculty in the loop and draw them into the conversation. This could include efforts as simple as making meeting minutes available to staff or providing formal and informal opportunities for teachers to hear about (or even add input into) important school-wide decisions.
In the end, this dedication to transparency helps establish a working environment for teachers and a learning environment for students that feels unified and consistent.
2. Seeking out teachers’ professional input
So much of what teachers deal with is prescriptive; there are state mandates, board-sanctioned curricula, standardized tests, and countless other immovable objects that shape how a teacher must do his or her job.
On the other hand, there are areas where school administrators are the ones in control of how time and resources get used. Many of these decisions, like professional development, setting discipline policies, scheduling courses and events, choosing curriculum materials, and the use of district technology have meaningful impacts on a teacher’s ability to successfully promote student growth.
When it comes to these types of decisions, administrators can help demonstrate faith in the professional experience of their staff by creating opportunities for input and discussion. Combining this collaboration with a transparent decision-making style can go a long way to increasing positive relations between administration and staff members.
Often times, teachers have insights and perspectives from the front lines that could aid an administrator’s decision-making. For the benefit of both staff and students, it is imperative that teachers feel not only safe, but empowered to share their insights with their superiors.
3. Being present
While one of the perks of becoming a school administrator may be a comfortable, private office, the best administrators strive to spend as little time there as they can.
Teachers and students alike need to feel like their school administrators are active members of the day-to-day school community. This can be achieved in a variety of ways:
- greeting staff members when they arrive to school
- informal classroom visits
- offering your services as a guest teacher to model techniques and engage with students
- being available in the hallways during transition times
- joining different groups of staff and students for lunch
- attending extra-curricular events
- sitting in on professional development sessions
Sometimes, just the simple fact that an administrator makes the deliberate effort to be present throughout his or her building can be enough to proactively prevent issues would have had to be dealt with reactively later.
4. Celebrating successes
Unfortunately, administrators spend a lot of time reacting to things that go wrong. It’s simply part of the job. However, there is substantially more power embedded in reacting to the things that go right in a given school day.
A lot of schools get caught up in the big celebrations like teacher of the year or staff member of the month. These are great opportunities to honor faculty for their hard work and dedication, but they only reach a handful of teachers a year. Odds are, there is something worth celebrating going on in every classroom every day.
Administrators can honor these moments with something as simple as a passing comment of support, a quick thank-you e-mail, or a sticky-note on a desk praising the way a teacher handled a tricky situation. Any acknowledgement of teachers’ efforts, regardless of how big or small, can mean a lot and help foster a positive learning community.
Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter at @SoperWritings.