Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New School Administrator Help

This article deals with starting the school year with a plan. "I HAVE a plan!" you shout...but do you really have a plan? Here's what can happen when you don't have a plan:

Teachers are unique creatures, meaning that no two are the same. What irritates and frustrates one teacher can be "no big deal" to another. Every teacher has a pet peeve that they are just a little crazy on to see what I am talking about.

Mrs. Jones hates backpacks. She read a article about a teacher in Idaho seven years ago who tripped on a student's backpack and broke her wrist. She read another article about a student who brought 370 Pokemon cards and 517 Silly Bands in his backpack, and dumped them out all over the floor and disrupted class. She makes students leave their backpacks outside in the hallway, where the contents of the backpacks are stolen by passing students. "It's the student's fault!" she yells..."the students shouldn't bring backpacks to my class in the first place! Everyone knows I hate backpacks!"

Mr. Zimmerman despises energy drinks. He complains to the administration on a weekly basis about kids intentionally getting "jacked up" on energy drinks and "bouncing off the walls" in his class. "Something needs to be done!" he shouts. Who is going to stand up to this epidemic!

I would go on, but you get the idea. Mr. Williams loses his composure every time he hears a cell phone go off in his class. Mrs. Weaver counts students tardy if they are not IN THEIR SEAT when the bell BEGINS to ring. Mr. Anderson is on a crusade to end the practice of letting students run in the hallway. The Math department will not accept late work, period! Mrs. Watson has a hissy fit if she catches anyone chewing gum in her class.

Because of the "Teachers Are Like Snowflakes" phenomenon, the leader of the building has a monumental task. The task is providing CONSISTENCY in the building so that everyone is on the same page. How in the world do you do that?

You have to have a building-wide list of policies to deal with all of these issues...there is just no getting around it. Where you DO have some flexibility is how you arrive at the list of policies. You can take a "top-down" approach by issuing a list of policies and procedures at the beginning of the year, or you can take a "participatory" leadership approach by putting together a committee to come up with the list of policies.

Once the list is made, teachers have to agree to enforce the policies as they are written...even though they may not agree with all of them. For example, a teacher should not let students listen to iPods in his class if the policy is "No iPods".

What you will find is that teachers will respect you for providing consistency...even if they disagree with some of your policies. Make sure to let teachers know that the policies can be changed if they have enough support (and a good rationale) for doing so.

Lastly, remember that any policy you put in place has to be justifiable to parents. Any policy that is not beneficial for students (or that you cannot in good conscience explain to parents) is not worth having.

Good luck!