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For a first-year teacher, there is a lot that remains unknown and intimidating about beginning a new chapter. A new classroom, administration, and coworkers can be a very stressful environment to step into as a first-year teacher. Many times it has been said that a happy principal is one who is left alone and not bothered by teachers. But who should a first-year teacher turn to when problems arise? The relationship between a school’s administration and the teachers is a relationship that is essential to the success of teachers, individual students, and the school system. More often it seems as if there is a division between the two departments and it becomes a teacher vs administration mentality instead of a whole department working together for the betterment of students. The disconnect between the administration and teachers seems to be furthered by a lack of communication on what is expected and the support teachers will receive in the classroom. When the two sectors are not operating as a single unit, this sends a mixed signal to the student body. Often frustrated teachers send students to the office because of behavior problems only to have the student return almost instantly with no discipline action taken in order to support the teacher in their need. It seems that the two have lost touch with the stresses each department face, and instead of working together, many times it seems that they find themselves at odds. In an article posted by Terry Wilhelm on Concordia University’s blog, the author notes that “most administrators have a solid history as teachers, association reps, and advocates for children. However, once assigned to an administrative position, too often all the background experience and empathy is lost in perception”. What it all seemingly boils down to is this breakdown in communication between what teachers feel they need and what administrators expect. It is no secret that teacher turnover rates are high, and one the reason for this could most likely be in direct correlation of the support (or lack thereof) that teachers feel they have in the administration.

Each department has heavy expectations placed on them by external sources, and this idea of empathy cannot be lost between the two areas. Instead, constant and clear communication should be evident in the collaborative relationship to present a united front for students, parents, and outside sources. More than that, it is important for the well-being of teachers that they feel supported by school administration on a personal level as well as the academic level. According to Gary Gordon, “when a network of trusting, caring relationships exists in the workplace, employees are more likely to be engaged and stay. As Richard Ingersoll noted in a recent Education Week forum, ‘Teachers report that a major reason for their turnover is 'lack of support from their school administration.'…[Ingersoll's] data do also indicate that school principals vary widely in how well they do support and manage their faculty." A closer look is needed at where the disconnect between teachers and administration often lies, and what each department can do to narrow that division in order to present a unified system that aims to see each student thoroughly prepared for their futures in college and the workplace.

Trend or Issue?

This specific topic could be considered a trend and issue within middle and secondary education. Beginning with the issue at hand, across content areas, and even more so within specific areas such as Math, Science, and Special Education, there is high demand for teachers because of the shortage that is seemingly growing. According to research done by John Fensterwald, he noted that 17% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years (nationally speaking) according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (2015). While some numbers may be higher in different states, this particular information came from a national level. With a lack of teacher’s staying in the field, parts of the nation are experiencing a “teaching crisis.” States such as Arizona and Utah have such a shortage in teaching, whereas a state like Massachusetts is feeling “less concerned about it” because they are a better-paying state for teachers according to an interview with Linda Darling-Hammond (Cteachers-wanted_slide-f490f6ba4043bb11d14c641c5fd6a253f638a74b-s800-c85.jpgEO of Learning Policy Institute and founder of the Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education) (September 15, 2016). With more and more beginning teachers leaving the field, researchers began looking for a connection between this and the relationship the teacher had with the administration. The U.S. Department of Education conducted a survey in 2012-2013 from teachers who had left the teaching field. One table is labeled “Percentage distribution of working public teachers leavers who rated various aspects of their current occupation as better in teaching, better in current position or not better or worse”. One of the categories is listed out as recognition and support from administrators/managers. In this listing, 12.5% claimed it was better in teaching, and 44.9% claimed it was better in current position (outside of the teaching field). This type of data suggests a connection between the relationship built between beginning teachers and administration and the turnover rate.

First-year teachers have a lot of pressure coming into the profession for the very first year. Suddenly they are responsible for an overwhelming amount of students and are juggling teaching, grading, staying in contact with parents, monitoring grades, professional development, and so much more. With this on their plate, it is no wonder that some teachers turn right around and leave in what is known as the ’revolving door’ of teaching when they are not met with the proper support from their administration. In his book entitled Factors That Impact Administrator-Teacher Relationships (2013), Patrick Gray notes “administrators who foster the importance of establishing relationships within the educational community is another key ingredient to enhancing relationships with teachers. If teachers are going to be successful within the first few years in the field and throughout their careers, strong professional relationships must be established and readily available for teachers.” (p. 4). This idea that a happy principal and administration is one that is not bothered simply does work for most beginning teachers. These teachers need the support from their colleagues—yes- but also from their administration and those in charge. They need to feel supported and validated by those in command in order to feel appreciated and that they are doing the work they set out to do. In her interview on National Public Radio, Linda Darling-Hammond stated, “preparation and mentoring matter a lot. Teachers who are well-prepared leave at more than two times lower rates than teachers who are not fully prepared…if we could prepare teachers well, mentor them when they come in and give them decent working condition, we would be very close to the 4 percent solution” (2016).

With this issue comes a trend that seems to be developing and desperately needs to be initiated in all school systems, and that program is a type of support system for beginning teachers. An induction program like a mentoring system for beginning teachers will allow the responsibility of acclimating new teachers into the profession through a joint effort from the administration and veteran teachers. In this way, the sole responsibility of checking in on beginning teachers and making sure they feel supported does not solely fall on the administrators. Almost every school year there are influxes of new teachers, and with the various responsibilities placed on administrators, it would be hard to demand a one-on-one mentoring program for every single beginning teacher from administration only. This type of program would allow a mixture of partnerships between veteran teachers and administration in order to make sure a beginning teacher feels supported in their beginning year transition. In the article written by Thomas Smith and Richard Ingersoll entitled “What are the Effects of Induction and Mentoring on Beginning Teacher Turnover,” the authors note that “in recent years there has been an increase in the number of
external image d09269626f77cc93cc981c333ea09f1d.jpgprograms offering support, guidance, and orientation for beginning teachers during the transition into their first teaching job" (2004, p. 681). At the end of their analysis, Smith and Ingersoll found that “a strong link between participation in induction programs and reduced rates of turnover” (p. 701). At the end of the day, administrators and teachers want the same thing: success for each student within the school. It is a joint effort in order to work collaboratively and change the rate of beginning teachers leaving the profession. Teachers and Administrators who present a united front to parents and students would most likely have fewer problems and miscommunication. When a student sees that administration will back up their teachers, it would seem to deter students from trying to go over the teacher's head when there are discipline issues within the classroom. At the same time, teachers who show support for the rules the administration has established will be exemplifying for students and parents how to be respectful of those placed in charge.

According to Marietta E. Escuadro, below are several tips that teachers can use to have a successful relationship with administration:

Some tips below should be observed by teachers for the success of their close relationship:

  • Trust: Think rational, think positive: Even if you disagree with the management on certain issues, try to look at the situation from their perspective. Maybe it is not as negative as you thought it to be.
  • Student vs Staff: Management often makes decisions, keeping in mind the needs of the students first. So, think again before you disagree totally.
  • Towards one-to-one interaction: Disagreements can be taken up in a closed room in a one-to-one interaction. Listen more and try to understand their point of view. Then, put your decision forward.
  • Collective mission: Remember, it is a collective mission to improve the school standards and achieve annual progress. Brainstorm how you can be more effective in your teaching methodologies.
  • Collaborating effectively: Examine best internal and external practices, seek better alternatives and jointly form a path to success.
  • Share the vision: All the staff at the school should work on the same vision. They should share similar values, beliefs, and cultural linkages. Only then the school can achieve great heights.
Smith and Ingersoll also listed out some tips for administration to heed in order to build positive relationships with teachers.

Tips for Administration to have a successful relationship with their teachers:

  • Demonstrate personal integrity.
  • Show that you care.
  • Be accessible.
  • Facilitate and model effective communication.
  • Involve staff in decision making.
  • Celebrate experimentation and support risk.
  • Express value for dissenting views.
  • Reduce teachers’ sense of vulnerability.
  • Ensure that teachers have basic resources.
  • Make new teachers feel welcome.
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Annotated Bibliography:

Gordon, Gary. "Teachers Stick With Great Principals, Great Schools." Gallup.com. Gallup Inc., 24 Feb. 2004. Web. 20 May 2017. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/10759/teachers-stick-great-principals-great-schools.aspx>.
This poll and discussion look at the turnover rate among teachers and how it is affected by the support or lack of support teachers feel within their administration.

Gray, Patrick S. "Factors That Impact Administrators-Teacher Relationships." The University of Southern Mississippi The Aquila Digital Community (2013): 1-113. Ebsco. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1112&context=dissertations>.
In this scholarly article, Patrick Gray looks at the factors that seem to impact, both positive and negative, relationships between teachers and administrators.

Ingersoll, Richard. "The Teacher Shortage: A Case of Wrong Diagnosis and Wrong Prescription." NASSP Bulletin. N.p., 01 June 2002. Web. 22 May 2017.
Richard Ingersoll looks at how the role that conditions within the school and the organization of the school administration affect teachers and the turnover rate.

Escuadro, Marietta. "TEACHER-ADMINISTRATOR RELATIONSHIPS." Teacher's Corner. N.p., 28 May 2014. Web. 24 May 2017.
This piece offers steps teachers can take to ensure a better relationship with their administrators.

Smith, T. M., and R. M. Ingersoll. "What Are the Effects of Induction and Mentoring on Beginning Teacher Turnover?" Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 26.3 (2004): 681-714. Web. 23 May 2017.
Smith and Ingersoll look at the induction of mentoring programs throughout the nation for beginning teachers. Within their research, they notice how schools that are initiating this program are lowering their teacher turnover rate in beginning teachers.

Westervelt, Eric, and Linda Darling-Hammond. "Frustration. Burnout. Attrition. It's Time To Address The National Teacher Shortage." NPR. NPR, 15 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 May 2017.
This interview was conducted on National Public Radio. Ms. Darling and Hammond and Eric Westerville look at the growing crisis in national teacher shortages while speculating about the cause.

Wilhelms, Terry. "Teachers vs. Administrators: Ending the Adversarial Relationship." Concordia University Portland Online. N.p., 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 May 2017. <http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/teachers-vs-administrators-ending-the-adversarial-relationship/>.
This article looks at the relationship between teachers and administrators and focuses in on the importance of each position providing empathy towards the other in order to form a better connection with each other.