Principal: Listening to, caring for staff's needs key to success
In an interview with Chalkbeat, Sullivan High School Principal Chad Adams, who is leading one of Chicago's most diverse high schools on a path to improvement, discusses the value of caring for teachers and what he sees at the greatest needs of students at his school, as well.
Adams said his mentor once told him, "If you don’t feed the teachers, they'll eat the kids" — a philosophy that led him to prioritize building relationships with teachers and listening to their needs as a key component in helping them better care for students.
Adams also stresses the importance of relationship building with students as a crucial factor in helping them face some of their biggest challenges: dealing with adverse circumstances in their lives, adapting to a new culture, learning the study skills needed to succeed in high school, and navigating the pitfalls of social media.
No matter how diverse their backgrounds and abilities, teachers, principals and students share one thing in common: they are all human. As such, they all have basic human needs to be heard, understood and accepted. While much of education has become sterilized and digitized in modern society, recognizing the very human emotional needs of teachers and students is the responsibility of a good principal.
The advantages of building relationships with teachers are clear. Teachers who feel that their voices are heard and that they're supported in their attempts to take risks in order to reach students tend to be more innovative leaders in the classroom and produce better results.
Building strong principal-teacher relationships also improves school climate and produces an atmosphere more conducive to learning. Remember that students are masters at sensing tension in their home environment and can usually sense that same negative tension between school and classroom leaders, as well.
However, principals cannot neglect their own emotional well-being in the process. They also need to care for themselves and learn to maintain a proper work-life balance if they are to remain fit for the stressful position they occupy. Modeling self-care and balanced priorities can also help teachers learn how to deal with their own stressors and to feel that caring for one’s own physical and emotional health is an acceptable workplace practice.