Monday, January 28, 2008

What does Administrative Support mean?

What does administrative support mean? In discussing this with others, I have found out the definition changes according to the position the person holds. This variety of views can cause a lot of misunderstanding in the workplace and cause a lot of miscommunication. Seeing this from a lot of different perspectives enlightened me more about the difficult job our administrators have.

As a department chair, I was the liaison between my administration and the teachers in my department. In a school with over 100 teachers, it was difficult for the administration to make every teacher happy and meet all of their needs. Many times I had to request things from my department that I felt were unrealistic but I requested it because they asked me to do so. Unfortunately they were not always happy with the answer they got and sometimes felt that I did not represent them well. Being in on meetings with other department chairs and the administration let me see things in a different light where I saw more of the “big picture.” As a department we were more egocentric because we wanted the best for our department, which is not a bad thing. Sometimes the principal would have to do things for the good of the school instead of just the department and I guess sometimes we need to remember that our department isn’t the only one in the school.

I also saw that administrative support from the administrators was very different from what teachers expected and I think there should be a lot of conversation about this at the beginning of the year between both groups. Sometimes I felt that we were talking two different languages and when it got to the point where it was needed, feelings were hurt and people reacted instead of just acted.
As a teacher, I felt that administrative support means that:

1. The administration will back me up in conflicts with students and/or parents. (If there is a problem, talk to me in private and not in front of the student and parent)
2. The administration will be consistent in student discipline. (All students will receive the same punishment for the same crimes. I have heard the students ask to go to one asst. principal because he didn’t get detentions etc.)
3. I will get the materials that I need to teach effectively.(Books and equipment will be provided in time for me to teach my lessons.)
4. I will have time to plan my lessons regularly. (Many times I was asked to cover a class for a teacher during my planning period. I don’t mind doing this once in a while but not all of the time because other teachers refused to take their turn.)
5. I will be given time to collaborate with my colleagues. (Even if it is once a month during faculty meetings.)
6. I will not be asked to attend meetings that aren’t relevant to my teaching. (I have had to go to so many meetings just to show that I went to a meeting and had professional development. If I have to go, provide professional development that is relevant to my field.)
7. I will not be asked to serve on too many committees. (It seems like the same teachers are always asked to serve on committees. Administrators should share the “wealth” among all of the teachers.)
8. I will be given duties around the school no more and no less than any other teacher. (Someone shouldn’t get out of duties because they are the principal’s “pet”)
9. I will be evaluated fairly (I am expected to turn in the same things as my colleagues, not less and not more and not according to which administrator is my evaluator.)
10. I can go to my administrator with a problem. (Sometimes to vent, and sometimes for help solving a problem)
11. Teachers are treated professionally and not like students. (Teachers should be able to leave for lunch or planning periods when necessary).

Some administrators that I have spoken to feel that to show administrative support means to:

1. Allow teachers to discipline their students because the administration trusts the teachers. (There is a fine line where they don’t want to undermine the teacher’s authority.)
2. Allow teachers to deal with students and parents so that administrators can concentrate on the school as a whole. (There isn’t enough time in the day to deal with each and every problem as soon as the teacher wants it to be dealt with.)
3. Allow teachers to request the materials they need when they need it. (They can’t know what every department must have so they wait for the request rather than offer materials that might not be appropriate or even needed.)
4. Make sure that the school is run properly so that teachers can teach. (There are many different departments that are necessary to run a school and all of them need to be considered when making decisions.)
5. Make sure that all departments have what they need, as much as the budget will allow. (This means that some teachers may have to “float” because there are not enough rooms in the building.)
6. Make the best decisions that will affect the most people in a positive way (which means that some people will not get what they want).
7. Plan a school schedule that will affect the most people in a positive way (some teachers may not have planning periods the same time as their friends or they might not teach the course/grade they want).
8. Expect teachers to act professionally and not like students (I have seen teachers who were late to work, late to class, left during planning periods and were late returning, leaving early, letting students leave class early and squabbling with other teachers. All of the teachers were penalized because of these few since the administration was trying to be “fair.”)

I think if there was a lot more communication about this, teachers would be able to handle the decisions better even if it didn’t come out in their favor. Teachers can’t expect the school to be a perfect workplace and we need to remember that administrators are human. Just like in our classrooms, and families, sometimes there are individual situations that need to be taken into account. By keeping the lines of communication open with administrators will help make teachers more successful in the classroom.


Marcy said...

In comparing your two lists, there seems to be a clear separation re: what admin. believes is support and what teachers believe is support. If the necessary communication could take place, perhaps there would be greater fluidity between the lists.

loonyhiker said...

I have noticed when talking to both groups separately that their expectations are very different. I think that is one of the reasons there is such dissatisfaction in our field. The two groups need to come together and work this out.