What Do Teachers Need From Administrators?

Scott McLeod asked me to contribute (he didn’t offer cash as I recall) to his, “What do teachers need from administrators?” week of posts. His blog is much more widely read than mine, so don’t miss it there or you might miss the comments left there. Here is the post:

Hi, my Name is Brian Crosby. Scott has asked me to kick off his week long series, “What do teachers need from administrators?” You can learn about me on the “About”  page on my blog, Learning Is Messy, and about my students here.

The short version is that I have taught for about 30 years. I currently teach in a very “at risk” elementary school – almost 100% free lunch and almost 90% second language learners. I usually “roll” a class for 3 years. I get them as 4th graders and keep them through 6th grade. Poverty causes a high rate of turnover, so I usually end with a little more than half of the students I started with after 3 years. Some years I have 20 or more changes in my classroom. I have the only 1:1 elementary laptop classroom in a school district of 63,000 students. My state (Nevada) funds education 50th in the country.

I’m not going to pull any punches on this topic, and because it is focused on what teachers need from administrators, I’m sticking to that. Just know that administrators need plenty from teachers too, so don’t take what I share here as dumping this all in administrators’ laps. They need our support and guidance as much as we need their’ s.  Remember I teach elementary, so my feedback will be shaded by my experience.

I’m pointing my post at all school administrators not just principals. What do teachers need from administrators?

– Give us, and advocate for us, more time to plan.  Effective teaching requires, more than ever, effective planning. I would love to have as much as 2 weeks (not including a day or two to set up my classroom) at the beginning of the school year.  Time to plan as a staff, unit (for example – upper elementary grades), grade level and self. I know this costs money … might be some of the best money spent.

– It’s the 21st century – let’s go there with our schools! If a teacher from 100 years ago, or even 50 could pretty much move right in, that’s not good. Would that work in medicine or business?

– Teachers should have the most say in the professional development they receive – some of that 2 weeks time at the beginning of the year could be PD teachers planned to help drive their teaching and their plan for the year.

– We are glad you get to attend conferences during the summer. Don’t make us adopt, adapt and integrate the great thing you saw or heard about there at the beginning of each school year. We don’t get enough planning time as it is – see above (in my school district we get 1 day and have to set up our room too), it usually just adds to the stress and have you noticed they are usually a bust.

– “Research Based” does not necessarily mean good, or right for our situation, great, effective, or proven over time.

– There are many, many powerful, important, effective, innovative, sometimes transformative pedagogies that are NOT research based. Maybe we should try some of them too.

– “Not everything that can be counted (tested) counts, and not everything that counts can be counted (tested).” – Einstein
Please, please, please – remember that when you are making decisions that narrow the curriculum for our neediest students (or any students). And yes, I know you’ve seen that quote before.

– Changing course constantly is very bad. Teachers that are constantly put in a position of dealing with changing rules, curriculums, programs, principals, other colleagues, your pet project from your summer conference  (and the assistant supes too), “We have dealt with the new reading adoption for a year and I see us struggling with it. And so even though we were told (as we always are) that we need 2 or more years to adjust and make this new program work, lets change things up some – oh, and remember this year we ALSO have a new science adoption to start-up,” – “Oh and our writing scores dropped some so we are going to try this new writing approach …” – “Now let’s go out there and be the best dang teachers and school ever! – BTW please have your discipline plan, school improvement plan (sorry, the school district requires that), and back to school night plan to me before you leave today.”

– Don’t tell us that teachers are “the salt of the earth” and that we are the best darn teachers and staff that was ever assembled, and then explain to us all the “top-down” decisions we have to implement that we have little to NO real voice in. We, mostly, have master’s degrees, years of experience and current experience (you, as an administrator, don’t have current full time classroom experience). Let us use ours – trust us and hold us accountable for that. Hold us accountable for our planning, lesson design, creativity (and the results of that planning time you are advocating for).

– You can’t hold us accountable for student learning by making us use a program – and use it strictly – if we really follow the program. How come we never blame the textbook/program companies that “promised” 5% or 10% 0r 20% or more percent increases in student test scores if we followed their program (that we paid big $ for) ????? Do you ever mention that?

– Are the tests (assessments) we give students to decide if they have learned what they are supposed to learn actually good, valid tests? Do we REALLY know if a student passes them (or not) they are a good or poor student? If you are not sure – please speak up.

– Don’t have meetings or set-up committees or trainings unless they are a REALLY valuable, powerful use of teachers’ time.

– This is harsh, but – If you have been an administrator for more years than you taught full-time in an actual classroom, you are probably disconnected from what it is like to be a teacher. If you taught for less than 4 or 5 years … sorry, but you probably don’t know what it is like to be a full-time classroom teacher (there are exceptions).

– This might be the most important – Be open to creativity and innovation. No, BEG for creativity and innovation from your teachers and students. Then support what obviously works, and ask for changes and tweaks to what doesn’t. Then hold us accountable. (But remember the planning time!)

– Please help teachers have voice, and ask us to help you have voice. There is too much education bashing going on, partly because we tend to take it and don’t push back. Our kids pay the price (and it isn’t fun for any of us either).

Lastly, where are the great examples of what works, what is awesome that happens in your schools with your teachers and students and parents!? Do you have some examples to share? Then shout out about them in every way you can think of!!  Right now only others that have a different agenda seem to have a voice so they are the only ones being heard. Where are your “Working, breathing, reproducible, intriguing models!?” Tell the world about them – better, have your teachers and students and parents tell about them.

OK, I actually have more, but I’ve challenged you enough, and there are more educators this week to challenge you more. Remember, I was asked to share. Thanks for your time,
Thanks Scott!

Brian Crosby

Learning is messy!

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25 thoughts on “What Do Teachers Need From Administrators?

  1. Wow – very well written! I completely agree with you. As teachers, we NEED the support of administrators. We definitely need to keep schools and curriculum current. And, yes, consistency is key with teaching / learning.
    Kind regards.

  2. Dear Brian,
    Thanks so much for your candid thoughts. My name is Pete Post and I am in my 6th year of teaching special education to pre-service teachers at Trinity Christian College (after a quick 3 decades of teaching high school special education). I am very excited to be teaching students that want to go into education and I often apologize for saying (or writing) things that may scare them. But I want them to know the truth about the joys and challenges of entering our profession. This week I want to assign my students in Intro to Special Ed to read this piece and post a brief reflection. Just a little time outside of a textbook, putting Piaget and Vygotsky aside, and thinking about what they hope for in an adminstrator (after getting a job of course). Thanks again. Prof Post

  3. Nicely done. You mentioned it, but I know there are a lot of teachers who do not have that much respect for young administrators who haven’t been “in the trenches” that much. Thanks for mentioning it again.

  4. My name is Samantha Rowe and I am currently a sophomore at Trinity Christian College. My professor had us read this blog as an assignment for class. I think he did a wonderful job at picking this blog for us to read. The blog is very well written and is a great read for anyone thinking about entering the teaching field. It brings up many issues that we will eventually run into. It is great to know about these issues in advance so we can start thinking about how we will react to them if and when they come up during our career.

  5. I found this article very interesting because i have heard many of these requests/complaints to administration before coming from my dad who has been a teacher for 30 years. The request for more than 1 day to set up a classroom was something my dad always asked for. I would always go in and help him set up his classroom so he would not be so stressed. I also agree with the statement that when an administrator has been an administrator longer than they were in the classroom they are out of touch of what it is like to have a classroom.
    My dad now only teaches one class and does do administrative work for his school and he has received more insight on the demand that are on people in administration. I think it is important for teachers to have a say and for administrators to listen to their teachers and then advocate them to the school district. This blog post was very helpful and i think people who want to be teachers and administrators should be aware of how current teachers are feeling.
    Thank You Brian for posting this.

  6. I feel there is a lack of communication within school districts. Everyone has to answer to someone and often people fear the results. Administration is concerned with the State, funding, test scores, etc. They have good intentions, but may not possibly have the right approach technique. They are faced with producing passing test scores in order to keep themselves from being labeled a failing school and potentially losing funds and staff members.
    Teachers need to answer to administration. They need answers to many things that are placed before them in a learning environment. Teachers need time to plan, assess their students, and change their original approach when necessary. Teaching takes much adjusting and accommodating so that students can achieve the goals set for them. When teachers are not able to plan accordingly, are they failing their students? Is the entire child being taught?

    Brian, your points are very helpful for me as I approach the teaching profession. It is concerning that there is such a gap of realistic ideas between teachers and administration.

  7. You said it very well Mr. Crosby. I feel that many administrative teams are out of touch with the classroom. During my years of high school, I saw few to no administrators in the hallways, classrooms, or school activities, their office was too often a safe zone and they very rarely stepped foot outside of it. Because of their lack of interaction with the students, the administration failed to recognize the true need of the students. Instead our scores were constantly being monitored and compared to the class ahead of us. We were threw a pizza party when our Michigan Plan test scores were 2 points higher than the previous class. What the students really needed was true knowledge, not test answers. When I came to college I realized how much genuine knowledge I lost from all of the “teaching to the test” that our administration pushed. As I reflect on your post I realize how many problems lye within our school system. However, as future teachers we can be empowered by the information we have been provided and use it to create a healthier relationship with teachers, students, and administrators alike.

  8. Hello, I am currently a Special Education major at Trinity Christian College. Our assignment this week was to you read your blog and respond to it. I really enjoyed reading it and found it to be very interesting. It provided me with an insite as to what kind of things are happening in the education world. I can not agree more with you, regarding the concerns you have raised. In all honesty, I think it is really unfair to expect teachers to prepare, set up, and teach effectively, in such a short amount of time. Nor, do I agree with punishing or firing teachers because of unsuccessful programs that they are forced to abide by. For some reason, it reminds me of when Adam blamed Eve because he ate the fruit. Stand up and take ownership of your responsibility and stop blaming others. If the teachers are going to be at blame, like you said, the least that can be done is to let teachers create their own programs. Let them use their thoughts and ideas on effectiveness in the classroom. After all, they are the ones that spending time with the students, and recognizing the ways in which they learn effectively.

  9. After reading this article by Brian Crosby, I agree 100% to what he sais. Teachers in today’s society are getting blamed and punished to much for what they really have no control over. Administraters have a certain curriculum, and certain textbooks, and certain tests that they want each teacher to use. It’s the administrator that should be punished if the students are struggling. The teacher knows the most about each individual in their class. Let them come up with the lessons, and let them be creative in helping their students learn. It’s almost like the teachers are just relaying what the admininstraters said to the students and aren’t putting their own take on it. If the administrators gave teachers more time to plan, and more time to come up with different ways to educate their students, their wouldn’t have to be certain curriculims to follw. The teachers have spend the most time with the students so let them come up with ways to educate them, and don’t give them certain things they have to use or do, or take. Let the teachers be creative and try to educate their students their own way and see how that works.

    Thanks for the post Brian


  10. First of all, thank you Brian for taking the time to write this. I am also one of Professor Post’s students and it was very valuable to read your blog entry. I think it’s very important not only for administrators but also for up and coming teachers to read. I am currently and Art Education major and I am extremely excited to start teacher aiding and eventually teaching myself. That’s why it’s great to hear from professionals and see their point of view on current education related issues. I agreed very much on various points that you made. First of all I completely agree on the importance of giving teachers time for planning and preparation. I think that if the best is expected from teachers than that requires giving them enough time to prepare. The second point that I loved about your blog was of course the Einstein quote. I’ve noticed that too much value is being put on testing instead of the students’ actual progress and interest. As a future art instructor that worries me as I see how the different art programs are suffering throughout the city of Chicago as a result of that. The third point I will mention is the point you made about the need to allow teachers to be creative and innovative. Administrators need to put more trust in that teachers know what they are doing and that trying new teaching methods is not necessarily a bad thing. Teachers are the ones that get to know the students and see what really works. As we move into the future it’s alright to start letting some new and fresh ideas enter the classroom. I hope to see that happening soon. Overall, you brought up many great points that I really enjoyed reading. Thanks again Brian. -Yasmin

  11. I am a student at Trinity Christian College. Our professor wanted us to read this article and give our feed back on it. I believe that he is right in many ways. Us students just think teaching is going to be easy. Well its not, there are many thing that a teacher must do and things we have to do for the district that we might not totally agree with. That is the problem with our education these days. Our adminstrator think they know whats best for us teacher to teach as well as whats best for the students. Well they have another thing coming for them. There WRONG!!!! teacher are the ones putting in the long hours and days for these kids. It should be up to the teachers what they want to teach. teachers do not do this for the money! they do this because it is what they love to do and love to see their students succeed and if were basing our students pass, fail with test and thats it, well were not doing our jobs then. Teachers need to speak up and take a stand if we want our say in what we will teach our students in a school year!!!!!

    Anthony Ochoa

  12. I appreciate your honestly in this article. It is good to hear your thoughts on what administrators could be doing for their teachers. It is interesting because looking back on my experiences as a student growing up I realize that I did not give enough credit to my teachers. I didn’t know that after the school day ended for me, it did not end for my teachers. I am starting to understand that teaching has to be your passion otherwise there is no way to last in this career. There are many trials that teachers go through and reading your article just helps reassure me in that. I am glad however to see that you have a passion for teaching because I feel like that is something that is lacking in many teachers these days. I hope that administrators help out teachers more in the future but my real hope is that administrators and teachers keep their focus on the kids, and not on other issues that could be distracting. Because in all seriousness, teaching is not about the teacher, its not about the administrators or the principals, its about the kids, and once we lose focus on that we have lost our whole purpose in education.

  13. I really like most of what you are saying here. But as i look back on my schooling i see that there are teachers that are tenured that if the administration put the “ball” this much in their court classes would be watching movies every day. Don’t get me wrong having two weeks to prepare would be wonderful but there are some that will take advantage of it and ruin it for everyone else.
    I really liked the part about being innovative, there are not many teacher out there that try to keep the lessons interesting. I have not had many good teachers in the recent past but the ones i did have were the ones that were creative and tried to keep us(the students) interested.

  14. I agree what most of what you have said in the piece, but the one thing that i question is the fact that you want teachers to have more time. Don’t get me wrong I would love to weeks to set up my room and plan for the year but there are people that will try to take advantage of it. One person slacking off could ruin it for everyone.
    One thing that I really agree with is that teachers need to be creative and innovative. It is hard to find a great teacher but when you do it is because they do things to keep the kids interested and also to keep themselves on their toes.

  15. Reading this article was interesting in that it gave insight into the challenging relationship between teachers and their administrators. I think that you are right to say that administrators become out of touch with the classroom if they have not taught full time in a while. I think that it is hard though because administrators are trying to help teaching by suggesting alternative teaching techniques and curriculum and teachers are then forced to try to teach in that way. I think you made a very good point saying that teachers should be allowed to come back after fifty years and be able to teach the same way because so much has changed. When an administrator was teaching, one thing might have worked but that does not mean it still does. Besides, time to prepare those lessons is definitely a problem. Preparation is something you seemed to keep coming back to and rightly so. I think that the amount of preparation for a lesson can make all the difference. Time to familiarize yourself with the curriculum as a teacher is a definite must. Thus, giving teachers several things to change and incorporate at once is a recipe for disaster. Teachers do need to be held accountable to excellence in education, but it needs to be done in a way that allows teachers to do it well. Giving them more time to prepare as you clearly stated is important. And also making sure that teachers stay up to date is a good thing as well.

  16. I thought that this article did a good job of talking about the difficult relationship between teachers and administrators. It’s a hard thing at times because administrators want to be helpful and they want to try to improve the teaching at the schools. However, it’s hard for teachers to accept and adapt all that they are trying to change for two reasons. First, because as you mentioned, they lack preparation time to do it and thus end up being stretched and stressed as they get ready for the start of school. Also, another point you made I really liked. Administrators usually have been out of full time teaching so long that they have lost touch with what works well or things in teaching have simply changed in those years. Going along with this, it is important that we do not let teachers come back after twenty to fifty years off and just let them teach. We would not let doctors or most other professionals and in order for a school to be run well, teachers need to be current. This is truly important. And again, time is a thing that teachers often lack. Thus, administrators need to realize that they either need to give the teachers more prep time or they need to not give them multiple things to change, incorporate, or alter at the same time. They will not be able to be ready for the school year if they need to use multiple new curriculum and add a new teaching technique. Teacher and administrator collaboration is necessary and helpful. The administrator does need to make sure teachers are teaching well with good curriculum and varied techniques for varied learners. However, there needs to be a communication between them about what change is good and what change is too much without enough time to do it well.

  17. I am a student of Professor Post, at Trinity Christian College. Much like Stephanie DeBoer, I have a parent who is a teacher. My mother is a teacher at Huth Middle School in Matteson, Illinois. I feel like, in a way, I can connect with what you have said because of my mother. She often comes home with stories about her administration. She has had a lot of stress with teaching because of them. I always try to help my mom out as much as I can in the beginning of the year because of the little time she has to plan. I strongly agree with the request for more planning time. I also agree with the point that you made about changing the course. My mother is a science teacher, and the school has been having low reading and writing scores, so the administration is making all the teachers focus more on reading and writing. This is difficult for my mother because she wants to focus on science and doing her fun activities and labs. I enjoyed reading your article because I am planning to be an Elementary Education teacher. Your comments are very helpful to me. Thank you!

  18. My name is Jenna Stech, I am a student of Professor Posts, at Trinity Christian College. I am majoring in Elementary Education, so it was very valuable for me to read this blog. I agree with Diane Serbentas’ comment. It is very unfair for your administration to expect you to have enough time to set up your room and plan your year in one day. I believe that being a teacher takes a lot of patience, and creativity. When administration takes away from that creativity and makes teachers stick to a certain way teaching, or changing the rules and curriculum, it makes it very difficult for teachers to learn a new way of doing things. After years of training and observing ways of other teachers, a person figures out their own way they like to teach. But when an administration changes that, it can change that persons view on teaching. At first they might really enjoy it, until they aren’t able to be creative. I’d like to thank you, Brian, for writing this blog. It was very informative and valuable to me because of my future plans. -Jenna

  19. Hey Brian, looks like you are dealing with a lot of problems within your school. It’s uplifting to hear there still are dedicated teachers as yourself, trying to make an inpact. Today, it seems a lot of the teachers go with the motions and do what administration wants without voicing their opinion. I’m sad to hear your state ranks 50th in education. You would think that administration would make teacher preperation and planning a priority. Giving you adequate time to prepare for the school year would absolutly benefit the students. Upgrading the classrooms and enhancing the student learning experience would also help. It appears that adminstration might have different objectives than the teachers as it pertains to the school and students. Administrators need to let you teachers voice your concerns and input. You deal with these students on a daily basis and know how they can be reached. Hope you keep fighting for the students and all the fellow teachers everywhere!

  20. Brian,

    I can see your frustrations with administration. I am with you on the whole creativity aspect. I strongly and firmly believe that this generation is going to grow up with emotional distressed lives who are not creative. This is because we do not give them the space they need to think. It is test after test, after standard after “reading project” after “science project.” What happened to the best interest of the child? It sounds more like “what is in the best interest of the budget.” How are we preaparing these students to go out and conquer the world if they cannot think outside the box?
    I think that administrators who were not teachers should not be administrators. They are the supposed to be those that look out for you. They are the “connections” to whom you look for help AND support from. A teacher cannot make it alone. A teacher cannot make it pushing against the current and expect ot succeed. It is tough but instead of hiring new teachers how about we re-administer the administration.
    Thank your Brian for shedding some light on the situation. I wish the best of luck this semester. There is one thing you should know. YOU ARE the SALT of the world by example.
    Many blessings friend,
    Jackie Sanchez

  21. Brian,

    This was astonishing to read, I agree with you fully. There are teachers that really try to go farther with their students, however, if the administrators do not help, then it will be difficult to achieve what one is trying to achieve. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this blog, because it gives me joy that there are teachers out in the world, real teachers, who are trying to make a difference and help their students. If the administrators and the teachers are not on the same page, then that school will not function well. Like the phrase, “There is no I in team.” In order for the schools to function well and continue to make a great impact on student’s lives, we all need to work together. Teachers really go through a lot, in order for his/her class to learn. Time is a key factor to teachers, and I believe that if teachers need more time to plan and organize their room for the year, the administrators should try to help them out. We all need school in order to learn, without schools, many of us would barely know anything. Keep up the good work Brian and I hope you do write more on this issue in the future.

    Rene Hernandez

  22. Hi Brian,

    As someone who works with a curriculum publisher (I’m a consultant who manages their social media community), your comments about adopting and using new curriculum effectively provided insight that I always wondered about. From what I’ve seen, publishers tend to “speak to” administrators who often make the decisions about new curriculum. While I am completely confident that the publisher I work with develops their curriculum product with the students and teachers in mind, the fact that you are not the decision-makers always seemed odd to me. I know there are teacher-committees for adoptions, but not always – correct?

    Also – your comment about “research-based” was interesting to me. The curriculum I work with is “reseach-based” and the developers spent quite a bit of money to perform gold-standard testing. The results were great and the field trials show impressive student improvement, but does that matter? With “research-based” being thrown around without any real benchmark for what that means, why would a teacher feel confident that a particular curriculum will really help him or her improve student learning? Some colleagues who have worked for other publishes have even made comments to the effect of “anyone can say their stuff is research-based.”

    Now I’m a parent of two elementary students, so I see all of this from this perspective as well. I speak to my children’s teachers. I know the issues you bring up are valid. My question to you…can this change? Do you see hope? I hope so!

    If I am managing a social media community made up mostly of teachers, what can I provide to them to make their efforts meaningful and effective? The sales people can speak to the admins, but I am speaking with the teachers. I don’t have the onus of selling the product. I have access to content and resources that I can share with teachers. I hope it can make a difference. I hope I can provide information that makes it easier for a teacher to inspire a student to learn and become a better learner. I’m sure that is the goal of every teacher, but it seems teachers are so busy jumping through hoops, they don’t have the time to do it all themselves.

    Cheers to you and your post. Good luck with your efforts.


  23. Brian,
    You asked for examples of awesome happenings in schools. Unfortunately, many teachers have a hard time finding something awesome to say about their relationship with administrators and school bureaucracy. In order for students to receive effective learning, every professional in the school must engage with colleagues and answer the following three questions that should inspire those within a learning community( Dufour, 2004), What do we want each student to learn? How will we know if each student has learned? How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning (Dufour, 2004)? The answers to these questions lies within the minds of community based educators. The only way for students to excel academically, teachers and administrators must devise a plan in building a professional community that consist of faculty, parents teachers and administrators. This community will work together to achieve a collective purpose of life long learners; embracing models such as The Whole Child Approach, which can be implemented into their curriculum. Effective professional learning communities provide opportunities for adults to learn and think together, positively affecting teacher practice and school climate (The Whole Child Newsletter, 2011).

    Cesily Rosario