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19 Things Teachers Want Their Principal to Know

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Teachers are tired. More precisely, they feel exhausted. They often feel alone and long for support and understanding. In the past 15 years or so, I have seen a shift in the way society views educators. While there was some good that came from No Child Left Behind (2001), it began a wave of change in the pressure teachers feel to perform with perfection. Knowing that 100% success was expected 100% of the time, teachers began to feel mounting stress and worry that they would not meet the impossible standard. The reverence and respect society had seemingly shown for educators was replaced with a sense of fault-finding and yes, parental entitlement. (I’ll save my thoughts about entitlement for another post….) Somewhere along the way, the American teacher became the enemy.

Now, more than ever, teachers need the support and understanding of a strong, exemplary administration. At the core of that administration is the principal, who truly holds the balance of the school’s climate and positive progress in his or her hands.

Make no mistake about it; principals have one of the toughest jobs out there. They are often intensely scrutinized by local boards and their hands are tied by constantly-changing laws and initiatives. Pair that with a lack of funding over which they have no control, and it can be a very frustrating situation.
What is the solution, then? While the simplistic answer of teamwork seems obvious, for some reason it just does not happen on a regular basis in a great number of schools. There are an astounding number of teachers that feel unheard and unsupported by their administration.
I recently posed the question, “What do you wish your principal knew or understood about you?” to professional educators across the country. The answers were varied, but often had common themes of a need for trust and professionalism. Curious? Here is a collection of the most prevalent answers:
  1. Trust us enough to decide how to best teach. Support and trust mean everything.
  2. We work hard and for many hours beyond the normal school day. Our goal is to provide the best possible education for every student. Unnecessary interruptions during teaching time hinder that goal.
  3. Give us the time needed to plan and do away with other distractions and “busy work.” Working through a school day without a planning period is extremely difficult.
  4. Don’t play favorites. Just like in the classroom, playing favorites isn’t cool!
  5. Come into my classroom more than once or twice for an evaluation.  Watch me teach. Basing my entire year’s evaluation on one lesson slightly gone wrong is not fair.
  6. I think I should be trusted enough to not have to jump through hoops in order to prove myself as an effective teacher.
  7. Communication is the KEY.
  8. Don’t punish me for a job well done. Just because I am hard-working and capable, don’t come to me to be on every committee and to help solve every problem. It is not fair to give me the difficult, heart-wrenching cases year after year because I do a good job. Spread the workload fairly.
  9. Demonstrate honesty. Word gets around, so answer the same questions the same way for everyone.
  10. Help me. Talk with me and give me ideas for improvement. Please don’t tell me I’m doing something wrong and then not help me know how to fix it.
  11. Speak kindly about all your teachers. Talking about me to other teachers behind my back serves no purpose except for helping your staff to lose trust in you.
  12. Support me with parental interactions.  Please come to me and talk when a parent calls before assuming the worst or responding to that call.
  13. If you don’t know something, such as special education laws, please do not pretend you do. Just ask. We don’t expect you to know every single new law or initiative; we do expect you to ask and learn.
  14. Don’t punish the group for the actions of one person. For instance, if one teacher does not write lesson plans as expected, don’t force everyone to then write extensive, elaborate lesson plans.
  15. Lead. We want you to lead. A good principal will get out front and lead by example and professionalism. Lead; don’t boss.
  16. Stop the constant stream of initiatives. We know some are necessary and required by law. Others are superfluous and wasteful of our limited time.
  17. I have a life beyond school. I have a family who needs me. Teaching is my job, and while I love my career, ultimately, my family will come first. I cannot attend every, single school function after working hours, nor should I be expected to do so.
  18. I cry. Sometimes I cry a lot. I worry about my students. I stress over my scores. I feel unloved and disliked by parents and community members. My job is a lonely one. Show a little kindness.
  19. I realize that you are a person with genuine feelings, too. I don’t expect you to be perfect. When you do make a mistake, as we all do, please just admit it and make the necessary corrections.
By far, this question received the most comments and feedback from teachers than any other I had previously posted on my social media networks. Many teachers feel that they do not have a voice or are worried that if they speak out, they may be in danger of losing their job. Ultimately, though, what struck me most was the strong emotion behind so many of the comments I received.
To those teachers who are struggling with an unsupportive or uncaring principal, I want you to know that you are not alone. There are numerous educators who are feeling what you feel. Hang in there and keep doing what you do best: teaching from the heart!
Teamwork really is the key. I know it sounds simplistic and cliche, but it is true. In truly successful, positive, happy schools, the teachers and administration (and yes, sometimes even the board!) work side by side, finding solutions to everyday problems, envisioning a bright future, and planning a path toward their common goals.

Shelly Rees

Hi, I’m Shelly! Thank you for being here. I love helping third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers with fun and engaging activities that require no to little prep! Let me help you by taking some of the stress and work off your plate.

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Hi, I'm Shelly

Hi, I’m Shelly! Thank you for being here. I love helping third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers with fun and engaging activities that require no to little prep! Let me help you by taking some of the stress and work off your plate.

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