In schools where formal teacher association groups exist, trusted school leaders must demonstrate a very keen sense of Situational Awareness. Teacher association groups may be well-intended, but at best are problematic for schools and school leaders. The very nature of a teacher association is a presupposition of us versus them – assuming school leaders support separate and different organizational agendas then those of teachers.
Healthy, trusted schools are environments in which all employees (i.e. administration, faculty, and staff) work together toward meeting the same objectives; sharing the same values and being committed to the same mission and vision. When an us versus them mentality is fostered, it only results in negative community relations, since it is founded on an assumption of distrust. When school leaders are trusted, there is no need for a teacher’s association. If there is a need within the school for such an association, then something is significantly dysfunctional and broken at the leadership level.
My personal school management philosophy is founded on the belief that a school leader’s primary concern is faculty and staff – not the students – not the parents, and least of all the administration or board. The number one priority is teacher care and development. Why?
Teachers are the very essence of any school. If school leaders place students, parents, or themselves above the teachers, they displace the very core of the school. Schools are only as good as their teachers – so teachers must be the school leader’s number one priority. Trusted leaders meet teacher needs, continually develop them as professionals, and ensure they are happy and fulfilled in their roles. If the teachers are happy, leaders see highly engaged students experiencing higher levels of achievement. If students are happy, then the parents are happy and become champions of the school. Moreover, if the parents are happy, then school leaders get to be happy too!
Therefore, the trusted school leader’s management philosophy is prioritized in this way:
- Teachers first
- Students second
- Parents third
- Administrators last
This school management order is critical. When administrators place their needs, or those of parents, above the needs of teachers and/or students, they diminish the school’s quality and environment. Doing so also results in negative school-community relations.
However, if the leader works where a teacher association already exists, then I recommend that leader do everything possible to eliminate the rationale for the teacher’s association to continue. Trusted school leaders know their teachers and rush to pre-empt any requests they may have. They become their teachers’ greatest champion. They eliminate the issues that resulted in a perceived need for the teacher’s association. They create a school atmosphere of transparency and access for all stakeholders, especially teachers. When teachers are valued above all other stakeholders, the result is not only a vibrant and positive work environment, but also significantly increased trust in the leadership.
©2017 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.