2 Top Things Teachers Want from Their Principal

index_cardsIn early 2012, I wrote a blog post called “7 Top Things Teachers Want From Their Principal” (published on Principal’s POV http://principalspov.blogspot.com/2012/01/7-top-things-teachers-want-from-their.html and on Connected Principals http://connectedp.wpengine.com/archives/5262).

At the first faculty meeting in August 2011, I asked every staff member to answer, on a notecard, the question, “What do you need from your principal?” I grouped the responses into seven categories:

  • Practical support
  • Technology
  • Special Education
  • Teacher Support
  • Feedback/Availability
  • Communication
  • Miscellaneous Leadership Qualities

I have repeated the notecard activity with the full staff each year since. In subsequent years, I altered the question slightly to “What do you need from the principal improve student learning?” This was a subtle change away from some very practical needs and toward our primary mission of ensuring student learning. The answers changed with the changing question and the changing years. However, as you read this list of the major categories from the last several years, the pattern will be apparent.

2012

  • behavior
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • visibility
  • scheduling

2013

  • Clarity
  • feedback

2014

  • feedback
  • consistency
  • communication (2-way)

Whoa! Did you see that? Over the years, the staff at my school have narrowed their annual feedback to me from seven categories to three. Furthermore, the combo of communication and feedback appears every year (in the years when the exact words did not show up, it is an easy argument that communication and feedback are intimately linked to the ideas that were featured).

Now, you have to understand that I am a little slow. I mean, you’d think that with all of the books on leadership and several years on the job, I would already know that two-way communication/feedback is vital to a smooth running, high performing school. Then again, if it were that easy there wouldn’t be so many books (and workshops, seminars, blog posts, webinars, mentoring sessions, and more devoted to the topic).

So, here I am, with incontrovertible proof that what teachers really want from their principal is feedback and good communication.

In my next post, I will explain communicate about the ways I give feedback and the ways I try to improve communication. I may even throw in something about clarity and consistency.

 

cross posted from Principal’s Point of View

9 Comments

  1. Santos said:

    This is so true! They do want feedback and I always have to remind myself of that. I sent out a SurveyMonkey questionnaire to my staff to ask how often they would like feedback from me and the answers were very eye-opening. Teachers want to do a great job and they want to know what their principal thinks about the work they are doing. I forget how important it is to give them that type of communication. I tend to focus on giving feedback to my new teachers or those that need to improve, however, teachers that are on track and doing great things in the classroom deserve to hear it and be challenged to grow as well.

    October 25, 2014
    • Good point that even high performing veterans want feedback. In my next post, I will be explaining some of the ways that I’ve found to give that feedback.

      Thanks for commenting.

      October 26, 2014
  2. Stephanie Parker said:

    This was a great reminder of what I should spend most of my time and energy on.

    October 31, 2014
  3. The question becomes, how does the principal or district institutionalize the feedback and communication link to inspire top performance supported by relevant training and meaningful performance evaluation? I would contend that absent a system to support the effort to align goals and performance, district and even school-level goals can be lost in the mix very quickly.

    November 10, 2014
    • Larry Fliegelman said:

      Stuart,

      I agree that better systems are needed. So far, I have been working mostly at the building level to improve. I do share ideas with other principals, but so far that is pretty limited.

      Any ideas on how we change the system?

      November 30, 2014
  4. Catherine Baker said:

    I agree with the previous comment: What a good idea! I will definitely be “borrowing” this. I’d love to know what you do to follow up. Do you refer to this all year long? It is so easy to forget how important that feedback is to teachers. Even though I haven’t been out of the classroom that long, I find myself forgetting to stop and praise. I also love the comment about getting feedback from teachers about how to give their feedback. I will have to research that, as well. Thanks for the information – very valuable and such a great idea!

    November 28, 2014
    • Larry Fliegelman said:

      Catherine,

      I do refer back to the notecards from time to time. I also do other kinds of staff surveys throughout the year.

      Thanks.

      November 30, 2014
  5. Leigh Zeitz said:

    Larry,

    This is true with all human life forms. When we create things or accomplish tasks, we want to be noticed. We want to know that our work is appreciated and that we are making a difference. This is true with students, teachers, administrators and parents.

    Thank you for bringing this to the top of the pile. It is something we should not forget.

    March 10, 2015

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