Five Things Teachers Need from Principals

At the beginning of this school year, I asked the following question on Twitter and in our school. The responses were insightful and have implications for all school leaders. Some of the responses were ones I expected, but some were surprising.

Teachers, if your principal did one thing for you to support you in the beginning of the school

As the dust settled from the whirlwind start to a new school year, I was able to carve out some time to synthesize the responses. Five consistent themes began to emerge very quickly through both the Twitter responses and the responses from my own staff. Across the country, teachers agreed that these five things would help support them to do their best work with students this school year.

Treat time like a precious commodity.

The number one answer was time. Teachers are begging for meaningful meetings. They want their time with students to be priority number one. They need time to prepare for the new school year and throughout the year. They also want to be able to take time to build relationships with students without feeling like they are falling behind on curriculum.

Show teachers that they are valued.

From little things that show they are valued, like timely email replies and making sure information is double checked for accuracy, to big things like pointing out their strengths, teachers want to know that they are valued. They want to be trusted, to know that their leader believes that they are doing their best. Several teachers replied that they want principals in their classrooms, to check on them and to offer a hand once in a while.

Ask questions.

Using a Google Form, I sent out a one-question survey to staff at our school. The survey was titled, “Help Me Help You” and the question was the same one I asked on Twitter–what one thing could I do to support you right now? The responses varied from teach me how to use my Smartboard to help me understand how our new recess before lunch format will work. The loudest response of all, both through the survey and in person, was thank you for asking. The Twitter responders concurred–teachers want to be asked questions from their principals. They want to be asked how they are doing, what they need, what their goals are, how their families are doing. The simple act of asking goes a long way.

Really listen.

Another big theme in the responses was that teachers want their principals to really listen, to really hear them. They want principals to take a genuine interest in their lives. They want to share their hopes and dreams and fears. Then, they’d like their leaders to take action based upon their feedback to create meaningful learning experiences for them. Teachers want principals to slow down, to be in the moment with them, and to put down the devices.

Show love for the kids & for the work.

Teachers work hard to get to know their students, and they want principals to do the same. There is nothing teachers enjoy more than watching their students soar and they want to share that joy with their principals. When principals have fun and play with students, teachers feel like they have permission to do the same.

In addition to all we can learn from teachers’ responses, we can also learn from what they didn’t say. As I combed through the 100+ replies from teachers and the input from the staff at Quincy Elementary, there were only 2 responses that talked about food. Not to say that teachers don’t appreciate chocolate and a catered meal once in a while, but what I learned from reading all the replies is that teachers care more about the five things above than they do about a taco bar.

Feel free to check out the entire thread of responses using this link. I would love to know your thoughts…what would you add to this list? What are your takeaways? Let’s keep the conversation going because when teachers are supported in a way that allows them to do their best work, our students win.

When teachers are supported in a way that allows them to do their best work, our students win.


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