A school ultimately sinks or swims on the quality of its teachers and of their relationships with students. Therefore the careful hiring of teachers is key, as well as expert attention to anything that impacts the work life of those teachers, or their relationships with students. Another way of saying this is that administrators and school boards should do their work with extreme care.
Scheduling, student grouping, curriculum, and programming all influence student-teacher relationships. Whether or not teachers enjoy a respectful, stimulating, comfortable environment impacts their work life – as does the way administration and teachers get along with each other. All of these aspects of school life should exist to support the teachers and serve the key relationships of teachers and students – so why do they often seem to do the exact opposite?
Today’s New York Times article In Testing, A Principal Leans on Her Experience, discusses one principal’s successful efforts to make her school the best it can be. The focus of the article is the principal’s approach to standardized testing and her determination to make what happens in her school serve her students despite adverse pressures.
I think that what schools need is principals like Anna Allanbrook who understand the key role teachers play in creating excellent schools and who are able to cleverly navigate the troubled waters of today’s school system.
The best way to improve a school, Ms. Allanbrook says, is hiring talented teachers. “As I’ve got older, I’ve become much better,” she says. “It’s almost instinctual. It’s not about what university someone attended, it’s about passion and love for children. I’ve developed a set of questions over time and pick it up pretty quickly from how they talk about children.”
Principals and other administrators who do not share Ms. Allanbrook’s focused, respectful attitude toward teachers and the teaching profession get the schools they deserve – and these are the schools that eventually sink. The trouble is that it is not solely the administrators who sink – it is the students. Parents and other taxpayers must put pressure on administrators and school boards to be sure all is in place to hire, and then actively support, the teachers and the student-teacher relationships in their district.