Supporting teachers—when they deserve it

Years ago I took a job as Head of a small private school with about 200 students, K-12. It was my first job as an administrator and I wanted the teachers to regard me as their colleague. I soon found out, however, that they wanted a boss, not a colleague. I met with each of them individually and asked what they needed from me. “Support”, they said.

Here’s what I wish I had said in response:

When you put students first, I will support you. When you model integrity, honesty, hard work, and lifelong learning, I will support you. When you do everything in your power to inspire your students, I will support you. When you are a reflective practitioner, a teacher who reads and talks and searches constantly to find better ways to help students learn, I will support you. If you need time off because of illness or family problems, I will support you.

However, if you fail to treat students with compassion, courtesy, and respect; if you are dishonest or lazy; if you make no effort to inspire students, and show no interest in developing your knowledge and skills as a teacher; if you go through the motions, make minimal effort, and repeat the same uninspired lessons year after year; then you will get no support from me—quite the contrary.

It would not have made a great difference, perhaps, but it would have been the right thing to say.

2 thoughts on “Supporting teachers—when they deserve it”

  1. Kia ora Eric!

    Presumably you were able to judge in the ensuing years if it had made any difference? Frankly, and as a teacher of over 30 years, I could say similar things to my students in terms of what THEY are prepared to do to help themselves.

    Like the teachers you spoke to, students’ energy and willingness to learn has to come from within them. I support my students when they are willing to spend time on study that I’ve given time to preparing.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allan’s last blog post..All About (digital) Learning Resources

  2. Hi Ken,

    Teaching in an international school, I have few problems with students who are unwilling to learn. When I do, however, I try to understand why they lack motivation. Invariably it’s because they think they cannot succeed—giving up is the only way they can save their dignity. It’s part of our job as teachers to try to inspire such students to believe in themselves, to structure tasks so that they can find success and build their confidence. I also have great empathy for students when I look at a typical week at school. I’ve noticed often at educational conferences that many of my colleagues have had their fill and are ready to go shopping by noon of the second day of workshops.

    However, I also have great empathy for teachers whose students come from cultures or sub-cultures that don’t value education, where there are no books at home and no parents who’ve been to university. Very difficult work with a very low success rate.



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