Building a Community of Educators

An administrator sets school culture as her top priority.

After nearly five years at the central office I knew it was time to return to school-level administration because I started to miss close connections with students, teachers, and families. At the central-office level, I was able to suggest and provide support for many school-level ideas and strategies, but I was not able to fully implement these great practices. Some colleagues were surprised by my decision, but I wanted to be closer to learning and have more of an impact on the important work that takes place in schools every day.

As soon as I received the okay from our Department of Human Resources I started to plan my return to the school level. What would the staff want to know about me right away? How was I going to get to know the staff? How was I going to set a positive tone from the get-go? What do I need to brush up on?I had to reflect on how I would share my purpose with the staff. I knew I really had to take my time and frame this appropriately because it would set the tone. Teachers often just want to know your expectations and leadership style so I set up an opportunity for all staff to visit with me. I sent an e-mail to the staff showing my excitement about joining their school family. I told them that I had an open door policy, but I know some individuals like having a structure so I decided I was going to have an Assistant Principal meet and greet. Some staff just popped in and others signed up for the meet and greet. This afforded us the opportunity to get to know each other personally and professionally, and for me to learn about their interests, families, and their career history and goals. It was an outstanding way for me to get to know the staff as well as for them to get to know me.In addition to thinking about getting to know staff and setting the appropriate tone, I thought about what I needed to brush up on. Setting the culture of the building and helping teachers had to be my top priority. I read books and articles such as Culture Re-Boot: Reinvigorating School Culture to Improve Student Outcomes, and “Help Teachers Be Their Best.” Both of these pieces show the important role the school-level leader plays in student success.

School leadership plays such an important role in setting the culture of the school. The culture of a building is truly decided by the words and actions of the administration. Therefore, if administrators desire collaborative classrooms they must have collaborative staffs. If administrators want to encourage teachers to build relationships with students and families because they believe in the difference it makes in student learning, those same administrators need to build relationships with their staff as well.

By giving teachers what they need academically, socially, and emotionally, we provide a model for their work with their students and help them create classrooms where student’s social, emotional, and academic needs are met. Having this type of atmosphere truly starts with the administrators who support the whole teacher-professionally, socially, and emotionally. For this to occur the administrator must be a model and mentor to assist in the growth of these actions. I’ll talk more about teacher evaluations and creating a growth mindset in my next post.

Administrators have a lot of influence on their schools. Schools with administrators who model growth, collaboration, and emotional intelligence are more likely to have teachers and classrooms that are all of the above.

I encourage you to set a collaborative tone in your building and to share your thoughts, ideas, and feedback. Shared learning is important for all educators-including school level administrators-and the continued discussion around this topic will help us all.

Suggested readings: