How Administrators can Support Teachers at Back-To-School Time

  (Updated August 2, 2022)
W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/high school principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership
Sign that says back to school

Why Administrator Support is Essential for a Successful Year 

Here we go again – welcome back-to-school! Usually the order is administrators and office staff first, then the teachers, and ultimately the students. So, how can administrators help prepare teachers for their students’ inevitable return? For the most part, teachers are excited to return for the upcoming year, and administrators must take great care to enhance that excitement. Nothing can dampen a teacher’s excitement more than an unprepared, unenergetic administrator.

All faculty and staff must do a myriad of things to prepare for the upcoming school year. The administrator is responsible for ensuring the faculty and staff have what they need to get off to a great start. The last thing an administrator wants to do is frustrate his staff by being unprepared amidst back-to-school for teachers. As the administrator, you are the one to make sure everyone gets going in the right direction. You also set the tone, “put out fires,” and set your school’s climate and culture.

These precious professional development days will determine the direction the beginning of school heads when the students arrive on the first day. Listed below are ways we as administrators can help and support teachers in those few professional development days.

Be Available for Back-To-School

This is one of the most important traits a good administrator should always possess, but especially at the beginning of the school year. Teachers will invariably have a million questions as they prepare for that first day. This is even more important if there have been changes from the previous year. As the administrator you must be available for your teachers going back to school.

Being available doesn’t mean just being there, but literally, being there for them, including your eyes, ears, and body language. During this time, you are there primarily to support your teachers and answer their questions to help them excitedly prepare for the beginning of school.

Have Essential Information Organized and Ready for Teachers

Invariably there are changes in how we do things from year-to-year. From the outset, our teachers must be aware of any changes and have the documentation to refer to as they prepare for the new school year. Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than to be deep into planning only to find out at the last minute that they aren’t doing it that way anymore.

The school year itself will present enough “uh oh!” to cause frustration and anxiety to your teachers. Having essential information ready for them on day one can help to reduce this at the beginning.

Have Classrooms Back-To-School Ready

One of the best ways to help a teacher get off to a great start is to have their classroom ready and equipped when they walk in on their first day. The classroom should be clean and inviting, not dusty with cobwebs hanging from the corners. All school-given resources should be in the room, ready for the teacher to begin using.

Desks, and the teacher work area should be set up with good, safe furniture and all technological resources should be up and running. Also, all lighting sources should be clean and properly working. Walls and floors should be fresh, clean, and ready for the arrival of your teacher.

Listen to Your Teachers

Your teachers are your most valuable resource for ensuring proper school climate. Additionally, your teachers are your “boots on the ground” resources in your building. Take the time to listen to your teachers’ feedback. Listening to your teachers lets you know what is working and what is not. Listening to your teachers also gives them a sense of worth and belonging in the educational process. So, as you listen to your teachers, really listen to your teachers.

Teacher Restrooms and Workrooms

The teacher restrooms like the teachers’ classrooms should be clean and inviting when teachers arrive on the first day. Nothing says unprepared like a dirty, dingy restroom. Ensure that everything is clean and fresh and that all paper products are stocked and readily available when teachers arrive.

Likewise, the teachers’ workroom likewise should be clean and orderly. Supplies for teachers should be stocked and ready for teacher use. Any new technology in the teacher workroom should have written instructions with it, or someone available for training on the new technology on the first day. Furniture in the teacher workroom should be comfortable and useable for the teachers. The teacher workroom is not the place to store old broken-down chairs, tables, filing cabinets etc. for teachers to make due with.

First Professional Development of the Year

As the administrator, you set the tone for each day and for the entire year. In the first professional development meeting of the year you will have the opportunity to set a positive tone and create a favorable climate for the year.

The first professional development meeting should be brief and cover essential topics that must be addressed at the beginning of each school year. Remember, your teachers are already preoccupied with classroom setup, lesson plans, student folders, and a myriad of other things necessary for the beginning of a new school year.

Take the time to:

  • Personally welcome everyone back
  • Acknowledge and celebrate any milestones your teachers have accomplished during the summer months
  • Be positive in your presentation even if the subject is not very popular
  • Ask teachers to come and see you individually with questions

Again, this meeting must cover what you must cover, but do your best to minimize the time spent in this meeting. Follow up meetings can be scheduled, and may not have to involve everyone in every meeting. That first staff meeting needs to be informative, positive, and concise.

Cover Current and Post-COVID Information

An important part of back-to-school 2022 is to ensure teachers that you, as the school principal, etc., are up on the latest COVID information and have implemented the latest policies and procedures to deal with the pandemic. As we are over two years into life with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still finding the best practices related to dealing with the pandemic and working to implement these practices within our schools.

We must be very informative with our students as to what we are doing and what we expect them to do in a hopefully soon “post-COVID” world. We must also remind our teachers that we are not totally rid of the pandemic and assure them that you are on top of it. Teachers need to know that we as administrators are not just here for the safety of our students but for the faculty and staff. While this is not a popular or positive topic, you must do all you can to assure your teachers that you are constantly striving to keep them safe.

Make sure your teachers know of any new COVID protocols you are implementing and where they can put their hands on cleaning supplies and PPE as the need arises. Remind teachers that we are still all in this together and we must strive together in a spirit of cooperation.

Whether a new educator or a multi-year veteran, the first days of the school year are always exciting. As the administrator, take great care to nurture that excitement and take just as great care not to squelch that excitement.

The grind of a school year will do enough to dampen spirits by itself; you certainly don’t want to start the year off doing that yourself. Your teachers are one of your most valuable resources. Equip them, support them, and care for them. If you are well prepared and have given them the tools they need, you can step aside and “let them teach.”

*Updated August 2022
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