Monday, April 25, 2011

It Takes Two to Tango

I recently read a post by Justin Tarte that was an open letter to administrators. While I agree with all of his points, I try to see things from the “other” side as well. A few of Justin’s points struck me and I wanted to offer some additional commentary. While I don’t think his intention was to blame administrators for any wrongdoing, I wanted to offer some advice for teachers as well. The quoted sections are from Justin's post.

"1) - When making decisions that are going to affect our classes or our students, we would really appreciate it if you would ask for our opinions and feedback first. We know you can't ask for feedback for every decision, but more often than not would be much appreciated."
Teachers, don’t sit by and pretend administrators know what you are thinking. Voice your opinions and let them know your opinion and feedback. They are not always going to ask and may not even think to do so. Help them out and provide that constant feedback, even if they are not overtly asking.
"2) - Will you please come to our classrooms more often. We are really doing some awesome, innovative and creative things with our students, and we would love to share our experiences and successes with you and our staff."
Send an email, drop a note, or swing by the office and invite your administrators in. You are undoubtedly doing cool stuff, but this is a two way street. As teachers, we cannot assume they know when we want them in and when we don’t. Personally, my door is always open, but that is not always the case. Don’t blame an administrator for not stopping by if you never invite them.
"4) - Can you please refrain from blanketing the entire staff with a punishment/lecture when the problem lies with a small group of Educators, and not the entire staff. Just as we don't do this with students, it's not fair to do it with us either."
I can completely agree with this statement but I would offer a challenge. While we have no authority over our peers, we certainly can be an influence on them. If you notice these problem areas that tend to lead to these punishment/lectures, do something about it. Ask questions, listen, and talk to these educators to determine why the problem is happening and what we can do to help make it better.
"5) - Your time is extremely limited and you are always busy, but we would really love it if you were more visible in the hallways between classes. Establishing and building a school community are crucial to the school's success, and this is one of the easiest ways to show students and teachers we are all in this together."
Teacher need to be more visible as well. I am not just talking about in the hallways, but at athletic events, band concerts, club meetings, and other places where kids are together outside of classrooms. I would also go so far as to say if you are a coach/advisor/director that you send a personalized invite to your administrator. Again, it is a two way street and sometimes a simple invitation can go a long way.
"8) - Lastly, the more autonomy and voice you give us Educators, the better we will perform. Allow us to do the jobs that you hired us for. Support us, empower us, and encourage us, but please don't control us. Tell us it's OK to take chances in an effort to do something awesome with our students. Provide time for us to see the awesome things other Educators are doing in our building. Please be the instructional leader you were hired to be."
Teachers, please use that autonomy in a respectful and appropriate manner. Don’t take advantage of the freedom you have been given and ruin it for everyone else. Always remember that you are a professional and should act that way to earn administrator’s trust and support.

Too often we create adversarial relationships between teachers and administrators. While I know Justin is not trying to do this, I think we have to remember that it takes two to tango.