I sensed an undercurrent of griping and some less-than-positive attitudes among staff members, so I knew I had to take some action. What were the issues? Knowing those issues would be the first step in the process of transforming gripers into a group.
I have been a principal for some time, but this year is my first year in a new school. Early on, I sensed an undercurrent of unhappiness; and I have seen some less than positive attitudes. I needed to get a handle on the issues, so I needed to come up with a plan.
In order to figure out if my perceptions were accurate, and to give teachers an opportunity to put their issues on the table, I decided my first step would be to survey the staff. I sent out a questionnaire in which I asked some general questions, including the following:
I decided this survey would be the most expedient way to learn more about the issues. It would give all staff members the opportunity to "speak their minds." Staff members might say things in a survey that they would not say in a meeting surrounded by their colleagues. The survey would also give me an opportunity to better understand their individual strengths and needs. And it would give them -- especially those responsible for the undercurrent I sensed -- an opportunity to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
The survey uncovered a few issues to which I already have been able to respond:
The survey is behind us now. We can focus on some of the themes exposed by it. Already I am sensing some changes in attitude. I think staff members are more convinced than ever that I am planning to stick it out with them and support them in any way I can.
About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. Six principals comprise our How I Handled team; two of them are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals. Team members remain anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.