How can school leaders support teachers? School leaders can support teachers by ensuring they have access to the resources and knowledge they need to do their jobs. Leadership also means giving staff the space to use their skills and judgement autonomously. Finally, leaders support teachers through interest in their personal well-being and professional success.
There’s no such thing as a leader of one. Principals, instructional coordinators, district superintendents… all of them rely on a larger team to accomplish educational goals.
One of the first things you learn about leadership is that you don’t get far without the support of that team. And although there are different styles and philosophies around gaining that support, experts agree that it’s a two-way street. Leaders have to support their teachers to receive their support in turn.
Educational attainment is a community goal; it takes a mutually-supportive community of educators to make it happen.
Conceptually, supporting your team is a slam dunk. But it’s a concept where the devil is in the details. Learning how to support teachers effectively and efficiently is a key part of being ready to step into a role in school leadership.
Creating Conditions for a Successful School Requires Supporting Educators in Three Key Areas
A modern education involves a lot of different systems coming together in the right ways. Once upon a time, it might have been enough to put students in a room with a knowledgeable teacher and let them soak up the information.
But today there are a range of specialties, teaching materials, technologies, and objectives involved. Teachers themselves undergo extensive preparation in college. But once they graduate, they need the infrastructure and resources to put those techniques into play.
School leaders are responsible for ensuring that those educators have all the essentials to do their work. Those necessities come in three categories:
Resources - The right tools and materials to get the job done
Teachers need resources to work their magic in the classroom. Good educational leaders anticipate and get the ball rolling on delivering those resources right away. Whether it’s the latest edition of a key textbook or a crate of chalk, leaders deliver material support that lets teachers get on with the job.
Professional Development – Building knowledge and refining classroom skills
There’s another side of the equation in teaching that goes beyond the material. That’s knowledge, and leaders need to support their staff in acquiring it. That can range from providing organized in-services, to hunting down professional development grants, to offering one-to-one mentoring. A good leader encourages and supports educators engaged in life-long learning.
Streamlining and Reducing Bureaucracy – Sparing teachers unnecessary hassles
If there is one thing that frustrates every teacher in their job, it’s bureaucracy. Rules, mandates, micro-management, community pressure… it all intrudes on the very core business of teaching children. So educational leaders can offer a lot of support just by minimizing administrative burdens placed on teachers.
That includes both knowing when to step back and let teachers teach, as well as actively protecting them from outside pressures coming down from the district or even outside. In some sense, that’s the leadership bargain—a principal gets to call the shots in the school, but they are also expected to take the heat from outside.
Going the Extra Mile to Support Teachers Is the Mark of Effective Educational Leadership
The best support for teachers is the kind they need.
That’s not just a trite saying. We’ll humbly state that it’s a reality that you can’t address the unique supports your staff requires by reading about it on the internet. Every teacher is an individual. Each of them faces their own challenges and has their own strengths and weaknesses. As a leader, it’s your role to cover more than just the generalities.
As an educational leader, the real support you have to offer comes through getting to know what each teacher needs and getting it for them.
While it’s always going to be true that all the teachers on your staff need resources, knowledge, and cover from forces outside their control, that’s not enough. The real support will come from getting to know them—and showing them that they matter.
There are many small but important things you can do to offer that support. It’s going to be up to you to figure out which methods your team needs.
Smart Educational Leaders Focus Support on Personal and Professional Needs
Although school leaders often have a pretty good sense of the kind of professional supports teachers need, there are other kinds of support that aren’t so clear.
Those come through the pressures and needs of a teacher’s personal world. Even the most professional educator is subject to forces from their personal lives. No one leaves behind concerns about their finances, their families, or their health at the school door. And there is plenty of research that shows that the overall well-being of teachers is just as important as that of students when it comes to educational attainment.
A 2022 report from the RAND corporation found that teachers are more likely to experience job-related stress, burnout, and symptoms of depression than other working adults.
While facing those larger challenges, though, the study revealed something else important: most teachers find their social support from colleagues, family members, and friends. And they found boundaries between work and life and self-care activities helpful. Access to mental health resources through their positions also reduced stress and increased resilience.
So, a supportive school leader must look beyond the professional matters of managing a school building and get down to the more individual level to begin effectively building a team. It requires empathy and engagement.
Learning to Support School Teachers Through a Degree in Educational Leadership
There are clearly a lot of factors that go into being a supportive school leader. You aren’t expected to figure them all out on your own the minute you set foot in the corner office. Every state requires a graduate-level education for school building leaders. Those degrees cover all these factors in supporting teachers and more.
A Master of Education in Educational Leadership helps you cultivate the kind of interpersonal relationship-building skill you need to understand each of your staff as individuals. That gives you the insight you need to offer each of them the support they deserve.
Graduate studies for school leaders also expose you to the research and data analysis processes you need to break down and prioritize support needs. You’ll both review and take part in active research in the education world. It’s information you can put to good use anticipating needs in your school.
Finally, these advanced programs involve internship and practicum placements. By putting you out in real schools to shadow leaders, you’ll see exactly how theories behind teacher support are put into practice every day.
With a team that has your back, you’ll accomplish more and go further as a leader. And the best way to guarantee that is to have their back, too.