Top FOUR Ways That Principal Supervisors Can Support School Administrators
LaMesa Marks-Johns Ed.D.
We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.
There is currently a lot of information/discussion on how to best support teachers and increase both teacher retention and teacher work/life balance. Equally important, there is a lot of information on how to best support school administrators. As a principal supervisor of 21 schools in a large urban school district, I decided to simply ask my principals the question: What ways do you best feel supported as a school leader? In this short blog, here are the top four responses that I received.
CLEAR LINES OF COMMUNICATION
The number one way that my principals reported that they feel supported is through clear communication. It is extremely important that school leaders are aware and understand the initiative, policies, procedures and practices that the district is wanting/asking them to follow. Therefore communication should be clear, constant, and timely. Principals are “planners” and they are the ones who are responsible for ensuring that they get buy-in from their staff about requirements, deadlines, and district expectations. Communicating the “why” and possibly the “how” is vital. Establishing clear lines of communication can be done via a weekly newsletter, group text messages, emails, and face to face. The more ways you have to communicate with school leaders, the better! Over communication is better than NO communication or UNDER communication.
PROVIDE TIMES TO INTERACT WITH PEERS
Secondly, principals reported that they NEED time to interact, have discussions, bounce ideas off of each other, and get new ideas from their peers. Not only do they learn from each other, they build relationships and friendships with each other. They feel a sense of connection and community with each other and KNOW that they are not in this work alone. They are able to discuss possible solutions to challenges and realize that they are NOT the only one who is having “to problem solve” a particular issue. Providing these opportunities via Principal Professional Learning Communities, Think Tank Committees, New Principal Committees, Community Building Opportunities, and Principal Meetings appear to assist principals in this need for peer interaction. However, there are many other ways that this can be accomplished.
SUPERVISOR AS A THOUGHT PARTNER
Additionally, principals communicated that they feel supported when their supervisors listen to concerns and assist with finding solutions. Having a supervisor who operates as a “thought partner” is extremely advantageous. This practice of sharing expertise, ideas, and experiences to help navigate and solve important issues, is helpful to the entire group. As I participate in school visits and walkthroughs, there are always opportunities for discussion and brainstorming. During this time, not only am I able to share my experiences and ideas but the experiences and ideas that I learned while in communication with my other principals.
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Finally, my principals reported the need for what I call “getting back to basics” as a way of support. Our school leaders need what we ALL need! They need someone to advocate for students, families, and staff! They need someone to listen to them, without the fear of judgment. They need to know that they are genuinely cared about and respected as a person and professional. They need someone who is not afraid to catch a little HELL on their behalf. Finally, they need a disruptive leader who is not afraid to stand up for what is right for our students and school as a whole!
To sum it all up, as a principal supervisor, I believe it to be my responsibility to support principals in the best way possible. Yes, the overall goal is support in a way that we can retain them. But most importantly, so that they remember their “why” for becoming an educator to begin with and that they love the work that they do each day.
LaMesa Marks-Johns, Ed.D.
Dr. Marks-Johns currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of 21 schools in Jefferson County (Louisville, KY).