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By Anne Guess
Read part one here.
Part 2: Educate the Administrative Team
In all my years in the Texas public school system, both as a student and a teacher, I have met very few school administrators that were ever music educators. By very few, I mean I can count them all on one hand. This means that you have to teach your administrators what you want them to know. School administrators can tell you how to achieve success in an academic classroom all day long, but many feel overwhelmed by the fine arts wing. They want your program to achieve. They want to help you. They just don’t know how.
Before you can teach an administrator how to help you, you have to make sure they are listening to you. Have you ever tried to teach a student while he was listening to an iPod? Before you can teach anyone a single thing, they have to tune in. This seems simple, but so many good teachers fail at it miserably. This is about building relationships.Just like any good relationship, the one between you and your administrative team is important and requires a lot of work. Show them your appreciation often:
- · Ask them to wear your choir shirt on spirit days – of course, I mean the shirt that you gave them for free. One thing people love: Free Stuff. (PS – having the admin team wearing your shirt is great publicity and PR.)
- · Buy them lunch. I wouldn't do this often – maybe once a year. It doesn't have to be expensive either. A sub sandwich or Chinese takeout can do it. Ask them what they like, and have it delivered to the front office on a Friday, for example. Another thing people love: free food.
- · Say please and thank you. It seems simple, but sometimes we forget to say it. Everyone wants to be respected. The fastest way to show respect and appreciation is to use these “magic words”. Administrators are beaten on every single day by parents, students, and teachers. I have been told that some days it feels like everyone wants “a piece”. A simple please or thank you can go a very long way.
- · Offer to help. If they seem overwhelmed, help them out – especially if they ask you to. Do it with a smile. (Remember what we said about “be willing to teach whoever signs up…”? Taking in a student that all the other teachers have complained about can also go a long way in building relationships with your admin. They will see that you are trying to be a team player.)
- Be a team player – even when it means you don’t get your own way. A good Administrator wants to help you, but sometimes their hands are tied. When meeting with Administrators, always ask yourself, “Is this a ditch I want to die in?” Know which battles are necessary and worth fighting, and know which battles to save for another day. No one wants to work with a choir director that is always looking for a fight and only thinks of their own program first.
- Stop by the office with good news or just to say “hi!” for a change of pace. Don’t be the teacher that is ALWAYS gloom and doom.
- Give your administrators what they love: free stuff, free food, happy student, happy parents, student success and anything that makes the school look good
- DO YOUR JOB. If it is in your job description – do it. If they ask you to do it – do it. Go above and beyond to ensure student success. Take care of your students and your responsibilities well, and the administration will love you and LISTEN.
So, now that you have built a relationship with your administrative team, you can commence the education phase.
- Why do you NEED a separate 7th & 8th grade boys' choir?
- Why can’t 6th grade boys be in there too?
- Why does the class need to be first thing in the morning?
- Why do you want to go to contest?
- Why is it important that the concerts are graded?
- Why do you want new uniforms?
Know what you want, and know why you want it – and everything you want is in the best interest of the students. Show them data – they LOVE data; what are the other schools in the area doing to address that problem/situation? Administrators have much more to worry about than just your program. Show them how and why your needs should take priority. Most importantly, come to the table with several solutions to offer. Administrators hate it when you come in and begin with whining – or worse, when you come in ready to start a war – and just expect them to fix it. Offer them your concerns calmly and then show them that you are trying to be proactive when you offer them your potential solutions. You might come up with something that they didn't think about. (Always remember to think like an administrator – look for this article to come soon.)
Did you notice that this article was more about the relationship you have with your admin than the actual act of educating? This job (as I assume most jobs are) is about relationships. Without a good one, you might as well start banging your head against the wall now. People who like you want to be on your side and help you be successful. Who are your biggest cheerleaders? Who are the people that help you when times are tough? The people that LIKE you. Make your administrators LIKE you and you have won half the battle.