Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Great Administrators Acknowledge Ideas

I am very lucky. I have been teaching for three years and have been graced with two amazing principals. While there are many reasons why I consider them to be superb, one that really sticks out it is the willingness to acknowledge ideas.  A key component of supporting students and staff is to actually listen to their ideas.  A person's ideas are a major component of their creative and innovative nature. When an administrator jumps in on a stake-holders idea, the levels of faith and support for the person are self-evident.  It really means a lot for somebody to listen to your ideas. By displaying more than lip service to your ideas, it  shows you care about the person behind the idea. Let me illustrate this by two examples. acknowledge

One of our substitute teachers loves to teach letter writing. Whatever lessons you have prepared for that day usually go out the window. I have no problem with this. Most sub lessons are so drab that if a teacher is passionate about something I say go for it. A couple months back she had my students write business letters to people to either voice appreciation or concern. Many students wrote letters to our principal discussing topics such as uniforms guidelines, recess rules, and school funding concerns. After the letters were delivered, the principal came to our class to address the topics mentioned. It was enlightening to have an adult explain procedures and norms to students instead of barking out orders. It was also a clear sign that their ideas mattered. Even if they seemed silly or outlandish, their ideas matter, because they matter.

Additionally, I saw amazing support by my principal as she gave me the go ahead for Innovation Day. The lack of clear structure and formal plans was admittinelgy hard for her. Furthermore, she was the one who would take the brunt of the complaints if the day was a disaster. Despite these apparent risks, she showed me that she was willing to go for it because of the passion I displayed for the project. Sure she took a risk on me, but she also took a risk on my idea. As much confidence as she has in me, the idea may have seemed too much. Nevertheless, she went for it and I thank her.

So administrators: Listen to your people's ideas. Clearly explain why sometimes they don't work and don't be afraid to jump in on the crazy ones. In the end, it is really the listening that shows people that you care.

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