So far in this topic, we’ve discussed being available, being compassionate, and making decisions so teachers aren’t left wondering what the next step is. We’ve also talked about communicating clearly, explaining rather than assuming, and actively listening to what your teachers need.
The information we’re sharing is from the experts - teachers and students. They’ve shared stories with us about how their administrators are helping them and the things they wish they could ask for from their administrators.
We saved the best for last. In this final installment of the series, we’ll talk a bit more about why you should request that teachers do things rather than just assigning things to them, the importance of being honest, and who you should be including in your communications.
Request Rather than Assigning
Administrators are often very good at delegating by necessity. It’s often part of an administrator’s job to spread the work out and oversee the completion.
These are very different times, though. Teachers are either completely bogged down and overwhelmed, or unable to reach students and therefore left feeling a bit useless.
That’s one reason we advise communicating with all your staff routinely, so you’ll be able to gauge who is available to help and who is completely bogged down.
It’s important to remember that this is a totally different world than the one you’re used to working in, and we’ve even recommended that principals either sit in on a couple of classes to understand what leading them is like for teachers, or teaching classes themselves to get a feel for what’s really going on.
Most administrators know who they can count on to get certain things done. You’ve got team, grade-level, and department leaders who help gather and disseminate information. You have other administrators whose strengths and weaknesses you’ve always known and been able to depend on in a variety of situations.
But remote learning changes everything. You have to reevaluate and see who among your staff is swimming, who is floating, and who is sinking. Then you have to find who is swimming strong enough that they can lead and help those who are sinking.
Going with our analogy, remember that a drowning person doesn’t always look like they’re drowning, and they don’t even always know they’re drowning. They may still be holding conversations up to a certain point. They look like they’re floating. What they are really doing is desperately just trying to breathe and keep their head above water.
This takes a whole new level of triage for administrators, and those who aren’t savvy enough to realize what’s happening may easily lose several members of their staff if they aren’t being watchful. Be aware, and don’t continue piling the weight on those who cannot take it. Those who are in desperate need of help must be given aid in whatever way you can provide it.
It is human nature to avoid thinking and talking about things that are difficult, but you must never lie to your staff. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be honest even when it’s difficult. Tell your staff what may be coming down the road. You need to give people ample warning when changes are ahead, or even if you don’t know what’s going on.
Some administrators want to be perceived as knowing all things at all times. That’s not helpful. If you don’t know something, say that you don’t know. But don’t stop there - help them find the answers.
If your teachers want or need some information, consider it your job to help them find that information.
Remember your paraprofessionals and non-educator staff: secretaries, receptionists, teachers' aides, substitutes, security officers, nurses, maintenance crew, etc. They are vital parts of your school's community but are often overlooked.
Give them a call. Send them a note to let them know how much you appreciate them. And, remember to include them on emails and messages to the staff. There is little as polarizing as being left out of day-to-day communications.
Even if people are not on your payroll during remote learning, they are still part of your extended family and still your responsibility.
If they are still being paid, consider asking them to help out with some of the things that are overloading teachers. You may be able to ask them to make some of the necessary phone calls. If they are tech-savvy, you may be able to get them to make some videos trouble-shooting problems students and teachers are having.
Whatever you do, just don’t forget to let them know that you are still a team. It will make the transition back into a building-staff much more smooth.