It doesn’t matter who you lead, whether it’s students, teachers, or staff in general. If you don’t have their trust, they aren’t going to respect you or assist you in your grand visions. You can have the greatest ideas in the world. They can be the best of the best, guaranteed to succeed, but if you don’t have a crew behind you that trusts your ideas and helps bring them to fruition, then your idea ship is sunk before it even leaves the harbor.
As someone in any leadership position, you cannot lock yourself behind your doors and hide behind emails and all-call announcements to staff members. Then you’re merely a ghost in the school, haunting, but never immersing yourself with your staff. By hiding, you’ve now created a barrier with a line that divides administration from staff.
I was lucky at one of my previous schools to work under a principal who was always around. Every morning she would go to each classroom and tell the kids hello and to work their best. She was often in the halls and with staff. When bad things happened to staff, she supported them. She participated in the events with the students, and did crazy things. If I needed to see her, it wasn’t that hard to get ahold of her at all. Her staff respected and trusted her, and it was easily seen. At one point there were rumors that she might leave the school for an administration position at another, and her staff fretted at the thought of losing her. She had built rapport, and it was easily seen.
On the other hand, I’ve been in places where this wasn’t so noticeable, or was only sometimes. Being under administration that is never seen or that rules with the fist of compliance makes for a stressful workplace. Instead of feeling trusted and respected, you feel as though you’re never working hard enough or never doing anything right. Some teachers simply give up and shrug, content to float along, convinced that this too, shall pass.
Myself, I am still getting better with this. I am going to make a better effort this year to be rapport with more folks in both of my schools, especially now that I am in my second year. The second year last time made the biggest difference, and instead of being timid and hesitant, I was jumping in and getting things done. I want to do that this year in this district as well. I don’t have to worry about not knowing my way around or how things really work in the district. Those barriers are gone. Time to take some action.
I recently ordered a pirate flag, mostly because I wanted something to always remind me of the PIRATE system. I still need to get the rod and clips for it, but part of me is now thinking one way to set myself apart and spark some interesting conversations is to carry my flag around the school with me everywhere I go on my first days back with staff. This may or may not also involve a pirate hat or bandana of some kind. Parading about like this while I do my job gets me the crazy looks, and lets me talk to any staff member who calls me out on my craziness. The first days are crazy and hectic, but I can make them memorable!
I’m still working on other ways to build rapport. I need to find ways to get myself into more classrooms this year and talk with more teachers. This is something I’m still thinking about and deciding upon. I can’t do much good from my office if I’m to be assisting staff. I know I need to build it though, and I have some ideas, but they aren’t enough just yet to share. The first step though, is KNOWING I need to do better in this area and improve!