“Tell me what you need to ensure that every student in your class can learn.”

In my post, “Invest in the People that Invest in the Students,” discussing the importance of focusing more “on people” than initiatives and programs, a comment from Catherine Quanstrom stuck out to me:

Our teachers are caring professionals who are increasingly stymied when it comes to meeting the learning needs of their students in today’s diverse, inclusive classrooms. These classes often contain a critical mass of students with complex learning profiles. Just once I’d like to hear of an administrator who told a teacher: “Tell me what you need to ensure that every student is your class can learn; it’s my job to find the resources — money, personnel, testing, materials — and to then provide them so that you, their teacher, can teach.”

Catherine makes an excellent point.  I have been lucky to not only work for administrators that embody the feedback but also work alongside administrators currently that do remove barriers for their staff to incredible heights.

A few things I thought about from Catherine’s comment:

  1. As an administrator, we have to recognize that teachers don’t have full plates, but full platters.  Don ‘t ever add anything to the platter without explicitly communicating things that can come off. Less is more if you want things to be done well.
  2. In my experience as an administrator, I filtered as much as I could away from my teachers that was not necessary.  There are things you will do as a teacher that no one ever told you about in “teacher college” that are boring, tedious, and seemingly have little purpose.  That is the reality of the job.  But there are WAY too many things that are put upon teachers that are not necessary (i.e., the million surveys that seem to come around January and February).  Filter away.
  3. Remember that when you taught, how complex teaching was, but also identify that teaching becomes more complex (seemingly) each year.  You can remember what it was like when you were a teacher, but it doesn’t mean that those realities are the same today.  It helps for understanding, but it will never give the full picture. (This is true for the role of administrator as well.)
  4. It is rare (if ever) that people want to do a lousy job.  Guidance and coaching work better than ridicule and negative reinforcements.

There is a balance between “getting out of the way” and leading from the front, side, or back.  A simple question to think about as an administrator; am I creating barriers or pathways, and how is that helping my staff maximize their potential?

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