Suggestions for Principals to Provide Teacher Support

providing teacher support
Adam Kazmeiriski/E+/Getty Images

Having a supportive principal can make all the difference for a teacher. Teachers want to know that their principal has their best interests in mind. One of the main duties of a principal is to provide ongoing, collaborative teacher support. The relationship between a teacher and a principal has to be built on a foundation of trust. This type of relationship takes a lot of time to build. Principals must slowly cultivate these relationships while taking the time to get to know each teacher's strength and weaknesses.

The worst thing that a new principal can do is to go in and quickly make a lot of changes. This will assuredly turn a group of teachers against a principal quickly. A smart principal will initially make small changes, allow time for teachers to get to know them, and then gradually make larger, more meaningful changes over the course of time. It is important to note that any significant changes should be made only after seeking and considering input from teachers. Here, we examine ten suggestions for earning teacher trust and ultimately providing them with ongoing, collaborative teacher support.

Allow Time for Peer Collaboration

Teachers should be given time to work together in a collaborative effort. This collaboration will strengthen relationships amongst your faculty, provide new or struggling teachers with an outlet to gain valuable insight and advice, and allows teachers to share best practices and success stories.

The principal becomes the driving force in this collaboration. They are the one who schedules the time to collaborate and sets the agenda for these times. Principals who reject the importance of peer collaboration are selling its value far short.

Ask Them Questions/Seek Their Advice

The principal is the primary decision makers in their buildings.

This doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t be included in the decision-making process. Although a principal may have the final say, teachers should be given a platform to express their feelings or provide advice for the principal, especially when the issue will directly affect the teachers. A principal should use the resources at hand when making decisions. Teachers have brilliant ideas. By seeking their advice, they may challenge your thinking on an issue may validate that you are on the right track. Neither case is a terrible thing when making any decision.

Back Them

Teachers are people, and all people go through difficult times both personally and professionally at some point in their lives. When a teacher is going through a difficult situation personally (death, divorce, illness, etc.), a principal should give them 100% support at all times. A teacher going through a personal issue will appreciate any support their principal shows during this time. Sometimes this could be as simple as asking them how they are doing and sometimes it may be necessary to give them a few days off.

Professionally you want to back a teacher as long as you believe they are effective, ethical, and moral. There are situations where you absolutely cannot support a teacher because the decision they made is ethically or morally wrong.

In this case, do not skirt around the issue. Be upfront with them and tell them that they messed up, and there is no way you can back them up based on their actions.

Be Consistent

Teachers hate it when principals are inconsistent especially when dealing with student discipline or parent situations. A principal should always try to be fair and consistent with their decision making. Teachers may not always agree with how you handle situations, but if you establish a pattern of consistency, then they will not complain too much. For example, if a 3rd-grade teacher sends a student to the office for being disrespectful in class, check your student discipline records to see how you have handled similar issues in the past. You do not want any teacher to feel like you play favorites.

Conduct Meaningful Evaluations

Teacher evaluations are meant to be tools that show a teacher where they are and to move them in a direction to maximize their overall effectiveness.

Conducting meaningful evaluations takes a lot of time and time is not something a lot of principals have, therefore many principals neglect making the most out of their teacher evaluations. Providing effective teacher support requires constructive criticism at times. No teacher is perfect. There is always room for improvement in some area. A meaningful evaluation allows you the opportunity to be critical and to offer praise. It is a balance of both. A satisfactory evaluation cannot be given on a single classroom visit. It is a collaboration of information gathered through many visits that provide the most meaningful evaluations.

Create a Teacher Friendly Schedule

Principals are typically responsible for creating their building’s daily schedule. This includes class schedules, teacher planning periods, and duties. If you want to make your teachers happy, minimize the time they need to be on duty. Teachers hate duties of any kind whether it is lunch duty, recess duty, bus duty, etc. If you can figure out a way to create a schedule in which they only have to cover a few duties a month, your teachers will love you.

Encourage Them to Bring Problems to You

Have an open door policy. The relationship between a teacher and principal should be strong enough that they can bring any problem or issue and trust that you are going to try your best to help them out confidentially. Often times you will find that teachers simply need someone to vent their frustrations to, so being a good listener is often all that is necessary. Other times you will have to tell the teacher that you need some time to think about the problem and then get back with them with some take it or leave it advice. Try not to force your opinion on the teacher. Give them options and explain where you are coming from. Tell them what decision you would make and why, but don’t hold it against them if they go with another option. Understand that every situation that is brought to you is unique and how you handle that situation depends on upon the situation itself.

Get to Know Them

There is a thin line between getting to know your teachers and being their best friends. As their leader, you want to build a trusting relationship without getting so close that it interferes when you have to make a tough decision. You want to build a balanced relationship between personal and professional, but you don’t want to tip it where it is more personal than professional. Take an active interest in their family, hobbies, and other interest. This will let them know that you care about them as individuals and not just as teachers.

Offer Advice, Direction, or Assistance

All principals should continuously offer their teachers advice, direction, or assistance. This is especially true for beginning teachers, but it is true for teachers throughout all levels of experience. The principal is the instructional leader, and providing advice, direction, or assistance is the primary job of a leader. This can be done through a variety of ways. Sometimes a principal can simply provide a teacher with verbal advice. Other times they may want to show the teacher by having them observe another teacher whose strengths are in an area where that teacher needs assistance. Providing the teacher with books and resources are another way to provide advice, direction, or assistance.

Provide Applicable Professional Development

All teachers are required to participate in professional development. However, teachers want these professional development opportunities to be applicable to their situation. No teacher wants to sit through eight hours of professional development that doesn’t directly apply to what their teaching or they will never use. This can fall back on the principal as they are often involved in the scheduling of professional development. Choose professional development opportunities that are going to benefit your teachers, not just ones that meet your minimum professional development criteria. Your teachers will appreciate you more, and your school will be better off in the long run because your teachers are learning new things that they can then apply to their daily classroom.