Understanding our Teachers

By: Amy Sams, Principal. Southshore Charter Academy

As principals our days pull us in countless different directions. Our responsibilities sometimes seem endless. However, one responsibility needs to always remain clear – understanding our teachers.

When I was still a full-time teacher, I can remember thinking that my principal had clearly forgotten what it was like to be in the classroom. Did he not realize the number of papers I had to grade? Did he not remember how disrespectful students can be? Had he no clue of how much time I invested in my lesson plans only to have students disregard those efforts?

Now as a principal, I make great efforts to visit classrooms and remember what it’s like to be the teacher. Not every visit has to be a formal observation that is entered into the evaluation platform. Some visits simply need to be time to observe, absorb, and reflect. Instead of looking at what’s not going well as a weakness of the teacher, I need to observe if the teacher has been set up for success. Is she missing a resource or supply that the school can provide? Does he need PD in a certain area? Are our students different in class than what they appear to be in my hallway interactions with them?

Last year I went into two different classes and taught a full period of instruction in each. I am not talking about when I stepped in to be a substitute for the day because we were short on coverage. I mean actually teaching the class. I prepared the lesson plans and graded the papers afterwards. I wanted my students and staff to see that I too was a teacher. The insight I gained from my experiences of those two lessons guided some of the PD that we prepared for our teacher pre-planning days this summer.

This year I will be instructing two classes again but this time for the full day, not just a class period. I have also challenged my leadership team to do the same. Our students need to see us as educators, not just administrators, and our staff need to see that we understand the daunting task they encounter each day. This builds trust, relevance, and a spirit of teamwork.

I am looking forward to my opportunity to teach in the classrooms again this year. Afterall, I am a principal because I was first a teacher.