Every principal works with educators who dreamed of teaching since they were children. As well, there is always at least one teacher on staff who unabashedly admits he or she became a teacher because it was a decent job with summers off. And in between the passion to teach and the economy of teaching, the reasons for becoming an educator vary. But, for all teachers, one thing remains a constant: the compelling need to be understood.
A driving focus of great principals is to understand teachers—to hear their stories, know the circumstances that have shaped them, and understand the values they live by. And when leaders are open to knowing their teachers, they build an atmosphere of respect while creating a culture of possibility.
As Tony Robbins states in his TED Talk “Why We Do What We Do,” “effective leaders have the ability to consistently move themselves and others to action because they understand ‘invisible forces’ that have shaped them.” And these unseen forces reveal themselves to leaders who focus on “resourcefulness” rather than “resources”; leaders who believe “time, money, technology, contacts, experience, and management” are not as critical to human possibility as “creativity, determination, caring, curiosity, passion, and resolve.”
Megan Caporicci, a first grade teacher at Tustin Memorial Academy in the Tustin Unified School District, feels lucky to work at a school where she is valued for her gifts and supported for being a curious and determined educator. She says her principal, Wendy Hudson, appreciates:
Not just me, but all of our teachers. She gives us the freedom to approach our teaching in different ways and we’re lucky she doesn’t force us to have a cookie-cutter approach to educating children. I have the freedom to be creative and she trusts me, which is the opposite of micromanaging. She always knows what I’m doing, but it’s because she works by my side. She believes in me as a professional.
Teachers trust an administrator who cares about them. And care goes well beyond meeting physical needs like bulbs for document cameras or paper for the copy machine. Care is about taking time to talk and listen well. It is also about being a leader with a big heart who appreciates the gifts and talents of the people he or she works with and believes in.
Hifler, J.S. (1995). Think on these things. Tulsa, OK: Council Oak Books.
Robbins, T. (2006, Feb.) “Why we do what we do.” TED Talk. Available at http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do