In school leadership, it’s not what we do–it’s how we do it

Teachers and school/district leaders are needing more support and help with the way(s) they react and interact with others, but they currently are limited by time, resources, and lack of people to turn to.

These were the major findings from a recent survey that provides a snapshot into the issues and dilemmas that educators are facing. When we take a step back and review the survey results, it isn’t a surprise.

For the longest time, we have provided professional development, training, readings and coursework on the instructional or logistical side of education and leadership. Most educators haven’t been on the receiving end of learning experiences on the human side of education and leadership – the ways we act, react, and interact with others. The ways to develop and build trust. The way to form a vision and grow a culture. The way to bring ourselves to work and harness our humanness.

Time plays a role. Or rather the lack of time – not enough time, yet too many things to do – was listed as the major disruptor in building effective school environments. When we run our schools as a list of to-dos that we check off until the next day, we lose the opportunity to bring others in, align actions, and focus on relationships. Time (or lack of it) was taken up with interactions with others, in the school, the community and with the district office.  

Most Time-Consuming Activities

  • Communicating with school-based people (staff, students, etc.)                                            
  • Communicating with non-school-based people (parents, families, local community, etc.)      
  • Responding to directives from district office and/or state departments                                                

And almost every respondent indicated ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that many of the challenges at school involve dealing with people in some way.

It should make sense, therefore, for teachers and leaders to focus on the way they react and interact to improve these interactions and reduce the amount of stress (and perhaps time) associated with them.

But when educators are asked where they go for help, the majority went to their peers or a trusted colleague.

Where to go to for help

  • Peer/Principal colleague
  • Trusted colleague                                                                                                

They didn’t however typically seek help from their  

  • Senior leadership team
  • Mentor
  • Professional coach / other professional.                                                                                          

That may be because they didn’t feel that they their senior leadership was willing or able to help; or that they didn’t have access to mentors or coaches. Teachers often go to senior teachers and leadership for instructional and curricula questions, but it appears that they are less eager to approach them for non-instructional matters.

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