At the first faculty meeting in August 2011, I asked every staff member to answer, on a notecard, the question, "What do you need from your principal?" I grouped the responses into seven categories:
- Practical support
- Special Education
- Teacher Support
- Miscellaneous Leadership Qualities
I have repeated the notecard activity with the full staff each year since. In subsequent years, I altered the question slightly to "What do you need from the principal improve student learning?" This was a subtle change away from some very practical needs and toward our primary mission of ensuring student learning. The answers changed with the changing question and the changing years. However, as you read this list of the major categories from the last several years, the pattern will be apparent.
- communication (2-way)
Whoa! Did you see that? Over the years, the staff at my school have narrowed their annual feedback to me from seven categories to three. Furthermore, the combo of communication and feedback appears every year (in the years when the exact words did not show up, it is an easy argument that communication and feedback are intimately linked to the ideas that were featured).
Now, you have to understand that I am a little slow. I mean, you'd think that with all of the books on leadership and several years on the job, I would already know that two-way communication/feedback is vital to a smooth running, high performing school. Then again, if it were that easy there wouldn't be so many books (and workshops, seminars, blog posts, webinars, mentoring sessions, and more devoted to the topic).
So, here I am, with incontrovertible proof that what teachers really want from their principal is feedback and good communication.
In my next post, I will explain communicate about the ways I give feedback and the ways I try to improve communication. I may even throw in something about clarity and consistency.