One of the most recent lessons I learned as a school administrator came after learning about a teacher who was complaining about the administration.
I heard about a teacher who was confronted by the principal about poor performance. That teacher began defending herself with her friends and teammates, claiming that the charges that the principal had made were unfounded. The teacher was very vocal, and began trying to get other teachers to go against the principal.
When I brought this up to my mentor, he surprised me by saying that it was good that the teacher was complaining.
After I asked why, he proceeded to give me a lesson that I’ll always remember as I journey on my administrative career.
He said that it was good for teachers who have been confronted about poor performance to complain for two reasons:
1. Teachers who complain help the administrator send a message that poor performance will not be allowed to continue. Imagine if a poor-performing teacher was allowed to continue doing shoddy work without the administrator calling him/her on the carpet. That would also send a message to the staff – The administration doesn’t care about the improvement of the school and isn’t willing to confront these underachieving teachers. Poor-performing teachers may be the ones who will be the most vocal, but instead of worrying if they will turn the staff against the administration, my mentor saw it as a positive. That teacher is doing the principal’s job of spreading the news that all teachers will be held accountable.
2. Other teachers who listen to that poor-performing teacher complain may publicly agree with that teacher, but privately will be relieved that the administration is finally taking action. Teachers know who the weak teachers are. They know which teachers are not good for kids. Most teachers work hard and go above and beyond to give their students the best education possible. There are a few teachers, however, who give teaching a bad name, and all teachers know who they are. To see an administrator hold those teachers up to a standard of accountabilty is what can keep a staff’s respect for the principal. I’ve worked on staffs where there was very little respect for administration, and looking back, I can see how the administration’s inability or lack of desire to hold poor-performing teachers accountable was a major reason behind the disrespect.
I don’t think any administrator wants to hear that the staff is speaking negatively about him/her. I’ve learned, however, that not all negative talk is bad, especially if it is coming from a poor-performing teacher who has been confronted about their ineffectiveness.
Let them talk.
Let the message be sent that at your school, there is a level of accountability that all teachers will be held to.
I believe an effective administrator will look beyond the conflict that will arise from holding teachers accountable, and see the positive effect that it will have on the school as a whole.
What do you think?