Teacher-Principal Relationship

The relationships between principal and teachers vary greatly among schools and even among teachers at the same school. Studies have shown that these relationships also affect student achievement and the functioning of the school as a whole.

The principal has a very important role in the school building. The principal leads a group of professional, certified teachers and coordinates a cadre of classified personnel. In this position the principal establishes important relationships with the staff. As schools evolve, there is a need for different relationship paradigms to help properly guide teachers. The new leaders should empower as opposed to delegate and build trust rather than demand loyalty.

Principals can improve the overall perceptions of teachers by attending to fundamental components inherent in quality relationships. Significant interactions with the principals help teachers feel better about themselves and their collective missions, which makes them more effective in the classroom. Teachers need to see principals as supporters, facilitators, and reinforcers for the jointly determined school mission rather than as directors, guiders and leaders of their own personal agenda. Then they are more likely to feel personally accountable for student learning.

In many respects, the principal and the teacher work as a team when dealing with major discipline problems. Principals and teachers also need to work together for mutual support to deal with parental issues as well as to meet rising accountability standards and achieve adequate yearly progress.

One of the most important components of relationships, which help to sustain them and add value, is trust. The development of the trust factor necessary for teachers to follow and support school leaders' efforts is essential. The principal's overarching trust-promotion behavior is the building and sustaining of one-to-one relationships with teachers through communicative and supportive behaviors. Principals need to interact personally with teachers daily to garner their trust and support.

Principals should not worry constantly about setting a direction and then engaging teachers and others in a successful march, which is often known as planning, organizing, leading, motivating and controlling. Instead, the leader can concentrate on removing obstacles and providing material and emotional support. Principals should also take care of management details that make their journey easier and share in the comradeship of the march as well as in the celebration once the journey is completed. Then, they should identify a new, worthwhile destination for the next march.

Principals are the instructional leaders of their campuses. There are shared decision-making attributes. However, there are also certain leader-imposed and leader-directed activities that need to take place. The first and foremost of these activities should be promoting trust and building relationships. The ultimate goal is achieving student success.

Student achievement is important for the performance of the school as a whole. As a result, if students do not show enough successful scores, principals quickly recognize the need to achieve success, sometimes outside of traditional academic standards. If the climate in a school becomes cold and principals are perceived as suspicious and negative, they need to reform the environment in order to convince teachers to modify instructions.

The principal can examine the full range of cultural linkages and become a strong support for effective instruction. Cultural linkages refer to a system of collectively accepted meanings, values, beliefs and assumptions that teachers use when guiding their regular, daily actions and interpreting their surroundings. Principals can also affect the teachers' working patterns by arranging physical space and free time in such a way as to promote norms of experimentation and collegiality.

Effective collaboration is sometimes difficult. Effective collaborations operate in the world of ideas. Principals and teachers should examine existing practices critically, seek better alternatives and work hard together at bringing about improvements and assessing their worth.

Studies show that improvement in relationships is present in every change initiative. When relationships improve, things get better, while if they remain the same or get worse, this is a step backward. Leaders must be good at building relationships with diverse people and groups, especially with people different than themselves. An important principle of effective leaders is the fostering of purposeful interaction and problem solving. Effective leaders are cautious about easy consensus.

Teachers who show they care about their students, help them and motivate them to improve their performance help create an environment where the most successful students thrive. Similarly, teachers inspired by their beautiful relationships with principals, who motivate them to do their best, may be the most successful teachers.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Barbara Kohm; Beverly Nance.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007
Librarian’s tip: Part 4 "Creating Collaborative Cultures"
Teachers' Perceptions of Administrative Support and Antecedents of Turnover
Russell, Elizabeth Morgan; Williams, Sue W.; Gleason-Gomez, Cheryl.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 24, No. 3, July-September 2010
The Relationship between Effective Communication of High School Principal and School Climate
Halawah, Ibtesam.
Education, Vol. 126, No. 2, Winter 2005
Multi-Level Modeling of Principal Authenticity and Teachers' Trust and Engagement
Wang, Chuang; Bird, James J.
Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, January 1, 2011
Learning to Lead: The Dynamics of the High School Principalship
Gordon A. Donaldson Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Part 3 "Fashioning Productive Relationships"
School Climate and Teacher Attitudes toward Upward Communication in Secondary Schools
Rafferty, Timothy J.
American Secondary Education, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 2003
Teacher Participation in Decision-Making - Its Relationship to Staff Morale and Student Achievement
Jones, Randal E.
Education, Vol. 118, No. 1, Fall 1997
Supportive Supervision in Schools
Raymond C. Garubo; Stanley William Rothstein.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Learner-Centered Principalship: The Principal as Teacher of Teachers
William G. Webster.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
The Effect of Kindergarten Principals' Leadership Behaviors on Teacher Work Performance
Cheng, Jao-Nan.
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Vol. 41, No. 2, March 2013
Relationships between Measures of Leadership and School Climate
Kelley, Robert C.; Thornton, Bill; Daugherty, Richard.
Education, Vol. 126, No. 1, Fall 2005
A Study of Experienced Special Education Teachers' Perceptions of Adminstrative Support
Otto, Sherri Jennings; Arnold, Mitylene.
College Student Journal, Vol. 39, No. 2, June 2005
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