School dynamics have changed. Many parents are abandoning public schools to enroll their children in private charter schools. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) increased pressure on school officials. New policies on academic achievement forced many principals to mandate teachers instruct only the state standards. Higher demands on school stakeholders built animosity between teachers and principals. The pressure to improve test scores rendered a formidable principal turnover rate, which is directly related to teacher retention. School leaders must examine their weaknesses to identify a solution to this tumultuous battle.
Identifying the Weakness
The main weakness of school leaders is a lack of coherency with teachers. A systematic relationship must exist between both parties. This relationship is maintained through dialogue. Classroom observation is the platform on which commentary begins. Next, the feedback provided by the school administrator shapes the course of events. The constraints, and understanding the purpose of constructive feedback, will allow supervisors the ability to deliver feedback effectively.
The inability to deliver feedback in a manner that encourages teachers to excel rather than debilitate their ambition can weaken teacher morale. Teacher morale boosts school pride. Teachers need to feel good about their place of employment. Communication is key. If the principal is unable to form a relationship with teachers, it will be difficult to improve student achievement.
The strength of the school leader depends on the type of leadership style the principal portrays. “Leadership has more to do with the person, and less to do with the role and position” (Burke, 2014, p. 233). A servant leader would be able raise teacher morale, form a relationship with school counterparts, and produce a teacher evaluation system that allows teachers to reflect on their individual performance. An ineffective principal can become a proactive principal through reform. This reform relies on maintaining a relationship between school stakeholders and instructors.
Lack of Coherency
“A person may think that he or she is a leader, but if there is no one to follow, it does not matter what the person’s self-concept may be” (Burke, 2014, p. 233). Principals must identify their positions as school leaders. They are responsible for developing an alliance with their teachers. A principal cannot evoke change if there is a disconnect between the administration and teachers. If the principal and teachers share an agnostic view on the inadequacy of the curriculum, how can change occur?
School-based leaders and teachers must partake in the formation of a devised system of learning. Principals and instructors can then communicate their ideas regarding how pedagogy is rendered. Finally, the stakeholder will be able to turn an impairment into a strength. Once the network is created, true change can occur.
Building Teacher Morale
Many leaders focus on school pride for students, but if teachers do not share admiration for the school mission, how can they build intrinsic motivation in students? Examination of the internal environment should occur. The school administrator will then ask his or herself, “Why would I want to work in this school? What distinguishes this school from other learning centers? How do I compensate my employees?”
Next, the principal identifies the needs of the teachers. The school leader must distinguish between what teachers want and what they need. A want may not be a possibility, but a need is fundamental. Adequate teacher resources, child care stipends, and administrator support are examples of essential needs necessary for building teacher morale. Once teachers feel that their needs are being met, they will aspire to meet the exigency of the students.
Criticism vs. Constructivism
Criticism is simply judgement, but when delivered correctly, criticism becomes potential. A teacher should not walk away from an observation in distress. A teacher observation is an opportunity for progress. Feedback should begin with positive observations. If the feedback is mostly negative, where is the administrator accountability?
Did the school leader provide the teacher with essentials necessary for a satisfactory teacher observation? Any statement made negatively should be resolved cooperatively. Statements should begin with, “How can we change . . .” “What assistance did I fail to provide?” or “How should we move forward?” Administrators must ask themselves, “How was I inadequate?” Teacher observation is not about evaluating teacher performance but about how effective the school leaders were in preparing the instructor.
Once the principal outlines the weakness, true growth can occur. A transformational school leader is as effective as the last teacher observation. The foundation begins with the executor. When principals become aware of their own inadequacies, school reform can begin.
LaTanya Wilkins is an 8th grade science teacher in the Prince George’s County School System. She works as a curriculum writer and education consultant. She has more than eight years of teaching experience with middle school and preschool students.