Becoming a Teacher: Getting to Know the Hierarchy (page 4)
One of the most important keys to your success as a teacher at any level is to be able to get what you need to help the students in your class. You will need supplies, information, cooperation, and assistance from many interested parties. The first person to consider when you need help is your immediate supervisor.
Your immediate supervisor and your principal almost certainly took part in the decision to hire you to teach the specific class you're teaching, and they want you to succeed. So, it is in your best interest to get to know your principal, vice or assistant principal, curriculum supervisor, and director. A hierarchy of supervisors may work with you along the road to success, and each individual will play an important role at some point. Seek them out, and begin a congenial relationship that allows you to have regular conversations with these administrators.
The Principal's Job
The principal is in charge of the entire building. The ultimate responsibility for everyone and everything comes back to the principal's desk. He or she must answer to the members of the board of education, who make the policies that guide the district; to the superintendent, who is responsible for the achievement in all schools within a district; and to the parents and guardians of every student in the school community. Your job as a teacher is to provide the best educational opportunities and instruction for each and every one of your students. For your principal to succeed, he or she must provide you with the guidance and materials that allow you to do that. There may be an intermediary supervisor between you and the principal, but your principal is nevertheless informed.
The principal monitors attendance (including yours), enrollment, hiring and placement of all kinds of personnel, and custodial and transportation issues; prepares budgets; orders supplies; implements curriculum; conducts after-school activities; and works with parent groups. If you have any questions about the school, the principal will advise you, point you in the right direction to find an answer, or otherwise help you handle a problem.
The Principal as Problem Solver
Some people try to avoid letting their supervisor know when something has gone wrong. They may be embarrassed and try to fix it themselves. This approach is disastrous for a teacher. It usually makes things worse, rather than better, and complicates the situation.
Keep your principal informed. As a new teacher, you do not have the background or experience to make informed decisions about difficult situations. Your colleagues may be able to help guide you through a specially requested parent or guardian conference, for example, but your principal has a long-term history of decision making and should be the first person you go to for advice.
How to Handle a Parent or Guardian Problem
Parents and guardians may request to see you because they are concerned about their child's progress. They may claim, "You are not challenging my child." (Don't be offended, but parents and guardians sometimes request not to have a beginning teacher, because they fear that your inexperience will have a negative effect on their child's instruction.)
Your principal has weathered situations like this before. He or she may know these parents or guardians well, having heard the same complaint from them before. The principal can help you plan the conference and perhaps suggest words you can use to calm down the parents or guardians. If you plan ahead, you are more likely to have the parents on your side by the end of the meeting.
Meet with your principal again after the conference. The principal will respect your careful handling of the situation; he or she would much rather counsel you ahead of time than have to clean up an unpleasant situation afterward.
How Not to Handle a Parent or Guardian Problem
Picture the same example handled another way: You arrange the conference yourself; the parents or guardians are unimpressed with the outcome and go straight to your principal. The principal is caught off guard, cannot respond to the parents or guardians immediately (because he or she does not have the information needed to make a judgment), and can only temporarily calm the waters. The parents or guardians are angry or frustrated; the principal has to arrange to meet with you to find out what happened and why, and then plan another meeting with the parents or guardians to resolve the problem.
What could have been one preliminary meeting between you and the principal has instead turned into three or four stressful interactions involving you and the parents or guardians. "Why didn't you come to me first?" is the question any principal would ask. The principal will not question your judgment if you ask, "How should I handle this?" or "Do you have any suggestions or information to help me with this conference?" Your judgment will be questioned, however, if you continue to operate in a manner that causes your administrator extra stress.
The Principal Versus Everyone Else
All the advice you get may not be good. One teacher may say, "Everyone does it this way," yet you truly believe that another method would be more comfortable for you. Talk with your principal or immediate supervisor about it. The administration may have actively sought a teacher who could take a stand and use a new technique or method.
Reading, for example, was taught for many years with a basal approach. Students read together from a basal reader, completed exercises in phonics and practice books, and worked only with students on a similar reading level. Several years ago, a new philosophy called whole language was introduced. This method was different in that teachers worked from complete novels, with students of varying ability, and connected the reading exercise to a writing assignment. Teachers using this instructional pattern required knowledge of whole-language strategies and an understanding of how to assess student progress with these methods.
You may have been hired because you have training in a technique that the principal wants introduced into the curriculum. Other teachers may be doing things differently, but that is irrelevant. Find out what the principal wants. Change within a school is often needed but hard to do. One way for a principal to make it happen is to hire candidates who demonstrate interest or proficiency in the needed area. If you are questioned or even confronted, you must let people know that you have the support of the administration.
It also is important that you never compromise your belief in a child. You are his or her advocate for that year, and you must follow through and follow up on that child's behalf. If you are unhappy about how one of your students was spoken to or reprimanded, handle it carefully with the other staff member, but handle it. You must speak out, even if you are new. Your principal can suggest words to diplomatically keep your colleagues engaged while continuing to implement your project, program, or philosophy.
Your supervisors will want to watch you work in the classroom. Formal observations are expected several times each year. These lessons are sometimes carefully planned, and teachers may use "bells and whistles" to impress the supervisors. Supervisors know this happens, but they want to see the real you. Informal pop-ins on your class and spontaneous conversations with you provide that insight.
During a class observation, your supervisor will scan your classroom and note the answers to the following questions:
- Does the classroom reflect the students' work?
- How does the teacher manage discipline?
- What systems or routines does the teacher have in place that demonstrate his or her guidelines for student performance?
- How do students interact with each other when they are with the teacher?
- Are students organized in a variety of grouping structures (whole, small, cooperative, partners) to meet high, middle, and low achievers' needs?
- How does the teacher speak to the students?
- Does the teacher listen to the students?
- Are the plans listed in the teacher's plan book being implemented?
- What materials is the teacher using?
- Are the teacher's instructional strategies varied and appropriate for the students?
- Does the teacher provide for higher level questioning, sufficient wait time for student responses, and positive feedback to student responses?
- Does the teacher provide summary or closure at the end of the lesson to review the objective and reinforce what was taught and learned?
- Is the room organized?
- Is the classroom atmosphere warm, caring, and nurturing?
- Is the room clean?
- Is active learning going on?
- Is the room safe?
Some of these items may seem silly to you, but the answers tell a story about you and your students. They indicate who you are and how you work. The better your supervisor knows you, the better you will be supported when you ask for supplies or assistance.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1