As the principal or assistant principal, teacher-leaders are critical for your school’s success. More than anything, they need your support. What does that look like? Here are three things that you can do to effectively support your teacher-leaders.
- Acknowledgement: Seems simple, but among the most important ways to support your teacher-leader is to acknowledge their efforts. If you have someone who is heading up an effort at your school, make sure to acknowledge what they’re doing. You may need to accomplish this in a number of ways. The most important is face-to-face: make sure that your teacher-leader hears you say “thank you.” It’s been my observation that most teachers are wonderful people who will go a long way on just a little. If you have a teacher who’s taking the lead on a new reading program for the school or her grade level, make sure you acknowledge that you know what they’re doing. If a couple of your teachers are leading the Honor Society Induction, drop them a note to thank them for their work. Acknowledge the efforts of your teacher-leaders in meetings, in newsletters, and in your social media efforts. Don’t just include those who are sponsors and coaches, but also those who are leading academic efforts. Again, this seems so simple, but it is so important just to acknowledge the extra effort being extended by your teacher-leaders.
- Attendance: Be there. It goes hand-in-hand with the acknowledgement of their efforts. Show up. When one of your teachers is leading the way in using technology in her classroom, be there. Not just to write it up as an observation, but to be there to support her work. You know to be at the marquee events, but the principal who shows up at all of the other events as well is one who is building a culture of teacher-leadership. Again, this may seem very intuitive for you, and if it does then you’re on the right track. Sometimes just “showing up” is enough to demonstrate your support for your teacher-leader in a significant way.
- Appreciation: It’s the next part of this progression: after you acknowledge that you know that your teacher is leading, and because you attend demonstrations of the work, you are able to show your appreciation to your teacher. This goes a little deeper than acknowledgement. Since you’ve been in attendance and seen the work, now you can really show your appreciation. Find ways to show your gratitude to your teacher-leader for the work that they have done. One of the most important parts of appreciation is thoughtful follow-through. “Thank you” is nice; even nicer is something like this: “thank you for opening the world up to our students through the work that you did on this project. The level of commitment that you demonstrated is a great example for all of your students… Appreciation is demonstrated not only by gratitude, but though an understanding of what’s been accomplished that can only be reached by spending time to observe and reflect. That’s why appreciation is a step beyond acknowledgement.
Supporting your teacher-leaders in their leadership work and their development is an investment of time but it is most likely going to be something that will be natural for you as a leader. If you support them with intentionality, you’ll be amazed at what it will do for your culture-building efforts.
This is the final episode of a two-week series on teacher teams and teacher-leaders. If you take a look back through the last few days here at Principal Matters!, you’ll see how we have arrived where we are today.