November 15, 2009

Working with Your Principal

A principal who truly serves as an instructional leader is of immense value to any school. The role of the building principal and the nature of school leadership are being redefined as increasing numbers of schools turn to site -based management, total quality schools, teaming, restructuring, peer coaching, decentralization, and other paradigm shifts.

Whatever the exact configuration of leadership functions in a specific building, teachers and their principal are locked in an interdependent relationship. They need each other to succeed.

The less friction and stress between principal and teacher, the more enjoyable both will find their jobs. There is also evidence that the quality of the teacher-principal relationship greatly influences the overall school climate, which in turn affects the success of student in the classroom.

Investing in a positive, professional teacher-principal relationship should be a top priority for any beginning teacher. While some principals are more talented leaders than others, students are ultimately the winners when building principals and teachers can work in harmony. No one gains and ultimately students lose when a poisonous, adversarial relationship exists between principal and teachers. Successful teachers strive to develop partnership with their principals.

1. Keep your principal informed of both budding problems and your triumphs. Don’t wait to surprise them with major problems. It is best for them to have ample information directly from you, before they hear about problem from others. No decision can be better than the information upon which it is based. Take time to communicate your interest and needs.

2. Avoid only visiting your principal when you have problems. Share some good news or ask his or her advice. Invest time in nurturing a positive relationship. If you are experimenting with a new instructional technique or a novel assignment, alert your principal and seek his or her support. Only through frequent interactions does mutual trust evolve.

3. When your principal has done something considerate or particularly helpful, drop him or her note. Let the principal know his or her efforts are appreciated. Like department stores, principals often only hear the complaints.

4. For special achievements send a solicited letter of recognition or support for your principal to the superintendent. Anytime you want to give someone major recognition, don’t just tell them, tell their superior. Avoid dumping your problems on your principal. Especially avoids sending kids to the office for misbehavior unless it involves persistent or serious infractions, such as fighting. You will be creating an impression that you cannot control your own classroom if you have to rely on the principal to solve your student behavior problems on a daily basis.

6. Avoid backbitting or ridiculing your principal, even he or she falls short of your expectations. It simply isn’t professional and it really doesn’t accomplish anything positive. Don’t join in the game even if others are playing.

7. If you have a complaint or disagree with the principal on an issue, communicate your case clearly and rationally. This never calls for yelling, name calling, or sarcasm. Stick to the facts. If you have difficulty controlling your emotions in direct conversation, articulate your position in a letter. Remember, you still have to work with him or her tomorrow. Your aim is to influence the principal’s decision, not to alienate him or her. In all contact act maturely and professionally.

8. Choose your battles carefully. In any relationship you only have a limited amount of credit available in the other’s emotional bank account. Don’t squander your assets on a minor skirmishes. Save it ofor the truly important issues. If rarely complain, you are more likely to be heard when you do.

9. When you take a problem, prepare at least one or two possible solutions. Anticipate the consequences of each, the risks, and the resources needed. Be succinct in your presentation. Be rational in what you expect the principal to do to solve your problems.

10. Find opportunities to make your principal look good. Publicizing in the community the outstanding achievements of students is one way this is attained. Any noteworthy school accomplishment reflects positively upon the building principal.

11. Don’t make the principal’s job more difficult than it need to be. Submit grades, attendance records, and report on time. Some amount of paperwork has to be done to make a school work smoothly. It may sometimes be inconvenient, but must be done. Avoid using the prime for principal’s time for petty problems.

12. Try to see things from the principal’s point of view. It is not an easy job. They have many interests to please: teachers, non-certified staff, boards of education, central office, students, parents, and tax payers. Most every decision they make irritates someone, especially with the limited resources available to most schools. They are also sometimes obliged to enforce school policies they may not like. Be a bit empathetic. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your principles, that you shouldn’t advocate for those issues to which you are passionately committed. However, recognize you won’t always get what you want when you want it.

13. Take the initiative in inviting your principal to visit your classroom. If you have particularly interesting or successful lesson coming up, try to schedule an observation. Strive to view the principal as an instructional ally, even if you do disagree on your teaching effectiveness.

14. Avoid interpreting criticisms of your teaching effectiveness as personal attacks. No teacher is perfect. Avoid becoming defensive. Reality-test any criticisms by asking other administrators or teachers to observe your teaching. Invite the principal to observe you again to reassess your teaching. A goal you both should share is to provide the best instruction possible to all your students. Build on that common purpose.

15. Avoid asking for special privileges. It unfairly puts the administrator on the spot. If you have a request for special resources or exemption to school policies, consider how your fellow teachers will accept the request if it is granted.

16. Share article you read on school improvement practices. Occasionally, ask her opinion on an educational trend to innovation.

17. Show your principal, you are thinking of him or her. Small considerations such as birthday card, a holyday card, homemade cookies, or a vacation postcard are fruitful investment in a positive relationship. TG

Classroom Teachers Survival Guide
-Ronald L. Partin, New York.

*) Tulisan ini diterbitkan pada Teachers Guide Edisi No. 09 Vol III/2009. Dapatkan hard copy di toko-toko Gramedia dan Gunung Agung sekitar Anda. Atau hubungi bagian berlangganan Hp/SMS ke 021 68458569

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