Teaching is an ongoing learning process, and the most effective administrators know how to support teacher growth. In this article, we’ll share five practical tips on how administrators can support teachers.
Research shows that strong teacher-administrator relationships cultivate a positive school culture, help teachers “buy in” to school policies and requests, and ultimately lead to better classroom instruction. These relationships also help minimize teacher burnout.
Top Tips on How Administrators Can Support Teachers
1. Make yourself available.
Administrators should make it clear that they are available to provide support. One way to do so is by having an open-door policy. If this gets too hectic, consider leaving your door open only during certain hours.
If teachers aren’t taking advantage of your open-door policy, circulate the hallways or drop by the teacher’s lounge. Greet your staff by name when possible. Ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything they need. You’ll build a positive culture that encourages your staff to seek help when needed.
When your staff comes to you with a problem, try not to force your opinion (in most cases). Offer some options, explain them, and tell the teacher what you would do in the same situation. Still, make it clear that you trust the teacher to make the decision he or she thinks is best.
2. Build in time for peer collaboration.
Peer collaboration between teachers is extremely effective because it improves teacher relationships, allows teachers to share best practices, and gives new teachers the chance to learn from more experienced educators.
In many cases, it’s especially helpful if teachers can have common planning periods with those who teach the same subject or grade level.
Consider setting up a mentorship program or providing time for newer teachers to observe veteran teachers in the classroom. By doing so, you’re investing in the quality of instruction at your school.
3. Support your teachers’ decisions.
In a survey asking teachers to rank 22 positive administrator behaviors in order of importance, the second most valued behavior was “Supports teachers in matters of student discipline.” (The first was closely related: “Respects and values teachers as professionals.”)
When parents complain about a grading or discipline decision and the administrator sides with the parent, it undermines the teacher’s authority in the classroom.
Of course, there are some situations when you absolutely can’t support a teacher’s decision. But if it’s not against school policy and is not ethically or morally wrong, do your best to back your teachers and demonstrate that you value their professional opinions and choices. When teachers know you’re in their corner, their enthusiasm and willingness to work with you and for you will increase exponentially.
4. Ensure that evaluations are meaningful.
Teacher evaluations sometimes drive a wedge between teachers and administrators. When it comes to how administrators can support teachers, providing meaningful, fair evaluations is essential.
Remember that the ultimate goal of evaluations is to help teachers maximize their overall effectiveness. To do this, you must provide specific, constructive criticism that guides teachers in the right direction.
When you identify areas that need improvement, also mention positive behaviors or strategies you observed in the classroom. You may wish to use the “Sandwich Method” by starting with positive feedback, providing your constructive criticism, and then ending on a positive note.
Be willing to answer questions and discuss your evaluations with teachers. Provide concrete suggestions for improvement instead of general, unhelpful criticism. Using these strategies, you can transform evaluations from a point of contention to a valuable tool that helps your teachers improve.
5. Listen to feedback.
All great leaders must be willing to listen to feedback. You are the primary decision-maker at your school, but you’ll increase buy-in dramatically if you allow teachers to be part of the decision-making process.
Utilize polls, perhaps through Google Forms, to gather opinions on important decisions (although you’ll have the final say). You can also have a Suggestion Box in the main office. Your teachers work directly with students every day and are a valuable resource for brilliant ideas and creative solutions.
How Administrators Can Support Teachers: Final Thoughts
When it comes to student achievement, a teacher is estimated to have 2-3 times the impact of any other school factor.
This means that in order to help your school and students be successful, you must start by supporting your teachers. If you’re wondering how administrators can support teachers, the key is to offer guidance, provide time to collaborate with peers, offer meaningful evaluations, and treat them as trusted professionals.
By doing so, you’ll build a positive school culture with low turnover and high achievement.