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What We Wish Our Principals Understood

With a world health crisis, economic inflation, and a general disregard for education and educators, being a teacher is far from glamorous or desirable.

To young children dreaming of growing up to become teachers, educators today are screaming, "No! You don't want to be a teacher!" But principles who listen can make a difference. From the mouths of real teachers, this is what we wish our principals understood.

Hear Us and Help Us

"Your communication is one of the most important tools to keep things moving. My principal is great, but communication has been lacking this year, and many things have seemed last minute.

I value my prep time more than the PD [Professional Development] I have to attend. I feel like most PD could be recorded or shared via Zoom instead of something I have to attend in person. I don't need constant praise about how much I'm doing; I need you to help me build [a] work-life balance.

When I come to you about a student, it's because I have exhausted all my options. I had an experience where I documented a student's dangerous behavior and shared it with my admin and others in the school who might be able to help. When we had a meeting, my principal didn't seem to get how serious this was to me, and the question was asked, "Well, what would you like me to do?" I felt unheard and like I had to figure it out on my own." — Anna, 6th Grade, Utah

Don't Give Up On These Kids

"As a veteran teacher of nearly two decades, I am not unaware of the woes of teaching. I have been teaching at low-income schools for the entirety of my career, and these students have shown me incredible strength and resilience despite their upbringing or economic conditions. Our principals see the data on these students and quickly give up or fail to create a culture of growth.

I am capable of teaching to meet my student's needs. Some days that may mean sticking to Common Core Standards, and other days that means a deep discussion on racism, as seen in To Kill a Mockingbird. The rapport and relationships I have with my students will always come first. I cannot effectively teach if my students do not feel like they are seen in my classroom." — Deborah, 10th Grade English, California

Respect Our Time and Contract Hours

“Simply stopping by the classroom to say hi is greatly appreciated. You become visible to the students and teachers alike when you leave the main office. 

Meetings are time we could be prepping for a class, grading papers, writing an IEP, or simply spending time at home with our family. Have an agenda and stick to it. Do not waste our time with things that could be an email or conducted in our department meetings. 

As the school’s AD, I spend an incredible amount of time working outside my contract hours. This needs to be accounted for, but it also needs to be appreciated." — Dirk, High School Athletic Director, Utah

What Other Teachers Want You to Know

  • "I hope principals realize that teachers and staff are the ones that make "it" happen, so they need to care for and lead us to success."

  • "A simple thank you goes a long way!"

  • "Please protect my personal time! We do not need to meet as an entire staff each week, instead, rotate through department or grade levels to see how we are collaborating as teams."

  • "You cannot be a friend to everyone, but you can be friendly."

  • "We need uninterrupted planning. Do not ask me to cover a class when we are short subs; you can do that. I have tests to grade and a lab to set up; I cannot cover a class and still be an effective teacher in my own classroom."

  • "We need our admin to learn how important it is to simply ask kids good questions and listen to them speak their minds. Sometimes all a child needs is an adult who really cares about them."

  • "Understand we struggle with our mental health. We're constantly at the mercy of how other people's decisions on [the] district, board, and state-level affect us."

Final Thoughts

While teachers want to improve the culture and environment of teaching, it's not possible without support from our principals. So principals, please be a pal and listen to your teachers, then act positively to improve your school for your students and staff alike.

Written by Brooke Lektorich
Education World Contributor
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