Can’t We All Just “Get Along?”

Today, I engaged in a Twitter discussion about technology, 1:1 devices, pedagogy, and change. This was the kind of conversation that makes limits of 140 characters a definite difficulty. I was glad when Sue Dunlop suggested the use of a Google Hangout, and I do hope that we can arrange something in the future. While this online conversation certainly made me think about many potential blog posts, there is one topic in particular that has me asking questions tonight: the teacher/administrator relationship.

Over my 13 years in education, I have worked with many different principals and vice principals. I’ve gotten to know multiple Directors of Education and numerous superintendents. I’ve listened to them speak. I’ve emailed them questions. We’ve discussed issues together. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree, but I’ve always felt as though my voice has been heard. I’ve always felt as though we could work together. And with this in mind, it made me sad today to think that people would feel the way that Andrew Campbell mentions in his tweet (as part of our discussion on “change”).


I would hope that the answer to this follow-up question of mine is always a “yes.”


But the problem is that this is not the first time that I’ve heard similar comments to the one that Andrew made. This is not the first time that I’ve read tweets such as the one below.


  • If we start our discussions with “the students,” how can our comments not be heard?
  • How can we share “problems” (at a school or Board level), while also posing “solutions?”
  • How can we take system and school requirements, and make them work for our students and their needs?
  • How can teachers and administrators work as a team, eliminating the hierarchy (if there is one)?
  • How can we consistently create a positive teacher/administrator connection, and what impact would this have on our students?

Maybe my experiences are different than others. Maybe in my ongoing attempt to be positive (thanks to my previous admin team, Paul and Kristi), I’m seeing the world of education through rose coloured glasses. Maybe I’m missing something here. But I can’t help but wonder, if we really want change to happen, and we want to sustain growth, don’t we all need to “get along” (i.e., having teachers and administrators that listen, share, question, and support each other)? How do we do this?



13 thoughts on “Can’t We All Just “Get Along?”

  1. The social identities of teacher versus administrator are deeply embedded in our workplace contexts and our relationships. You’ll have to rethink of ways to de-emphasize institutionlized views. Like students, teachers can see though conformance and institutional control. More importantly, ask yourself and other administrators, how you and they can shift from evaluation-correction perspectives which are a form of subordination and dominance to true colleagiality and authentic reflective conversations which professionalizes and equalizes relationships with teachers. Another point is that many teachers have experienced enforced institutional control so are naturally mistrustful. Whether you like it or not, your leadership position comes with power and privelege in the eyes of teachers, so you will have to counter their thinking paying careful attention to your discourses. You will have to build trust, loyalty and connections over time.

    • Thanks for your comment, Natalie! I’m actually not an administrator, but a teacher, and I’ve experienced these positive connections with admin that I hope/wish others experience too. I think that you make some great points here, but how do we build this different teacher/administrator connection? How do we change old attitudes and practices that may be impacting on current connections? I’d love to know what people think!


  2. Very touching subject! I hear both sides. Coming from a very abusive admin (in my opinion) to one that I am in love with, I think a lot comes down to mentality on both parts. It’s a relationships and relationships take time. However, that being said I do think it is very rare to find administrators who want a professional relationship with their teachers. Many may says they do but, they also want their vision to transpire. Also in my many battles and learning experiences I have been able to reflect that it is a two way street. As a teacher I need to understand that the admin is the boss and the mindset that you have coming in plays a big part in how admin or people in general react to your opinions and ideas. When I have come in strong, you are met with strong, when you come in positive you are often met with positive. I also think sometimes it comes down to personalities too. However, this all being said I think that both sides are always thinking about the students it’s just from different perspectives. Once you figure out these perspectives it’s easier to communicate. I know it’s cliche but have to assume positive intentions. Most people don’t intentionally go around looking for a fight with a colleague. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan! You make a lot of great points here. I’m glad that you’re in such a positive situation now. I am thinking about your comment that many administrators “want their vision to transpire.” Is it possible to do this and dialogue with teachers? This would be like adding the teacher perspective to the vision. The teacher/administrator relationship is like a real life lesson in “point of view,” and as you mention, it is good to understand all perspectives!


      • I would say yes. In fact that is the situation I am in right now. Teachers are consulted and then ideas are built I to the vision. But this is not always the case. In an ideal world everyone works together.

        • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan! Maybe we can keep striving for that ideal! (I’m glad to hear that this is the situation that you’re in now.)


  3. Just as teachers have different teaching styles, I think there are different administration styles as well. While all may attempt to put student learning first, it may not always show. As Jonathan mentions, assuming positive intentions is probably one of the best strategies you can use (as a teacher or administrator) to find a balance. Administrators have to make decisions while taking into consideration an awful lot of factors – teacher viewpoint/opinion being one of them (& and important one, but not the only one). My suggestion, if you are met with a decision that you don’t agree with, is to ask for clarification about what contributed to this decision. If you can get an administrator to explain how they made a decision, you may understand it better from the multiple perspectives it considered. That would also be an opportunity for an admin to explain what they see as your take on it and how that factored in. If your opinion has been misheard or misrepresented, that would be an opportunity to clarify it for them. If this is all done respectfully, it is a process that can help clarify decisions on both sides.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! You make a great point here, and your suggestion, would allow teachers to not just think about the different points of view but hear them as well. Maybe this “clarification of the decision” would also bring about a better shared appreciation/understanding between teachers and administrators. I do believe that when everyone works together in a positive environment, it ultimately benefits kids!


      • Jonathan, I forgot about Covey, and he’s one of my favourites too. Understanding is so important. I’m glad that Kristi mentioned this. You two inspired my recent post too — thank you both!


  4. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs | doug — off the record

  5. Aviva, one of my favorite sayings is, ” We are more alike than we are different”. While I understand the hierarchical and adversarial culture that can, and unfortunately does, develop between employee and employer, or union and boss, or teacher and principal, or principal and superintendent, I don’t like it. For some, it is a comfortable place to be. For others, they’ve been hurt or scared, and they retreat to that. All of your commenters have talked about the need to make the human connection, to see our colleagues as like us, and not “the other”. This is powerful. I also believe that while it is a two way street, the person with more power in the relationship needs to make sure they are reaching out. Just like teachers with students.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! I absolutely agree with you, and if I think back to my experiences now, I’ve always had this “human connection” and the principal, superintendent, director, etc., always has reached out. Your last line is also very important: as teachers, we do need to reach out and make these connections with students. And since I do believe, “It’s all about the kids,” I think that all other stakeholders in education need to make these connections as well (or, as big a connection as they can make given their position and time in the schools). Maybe this is my utopian dream. 🙂 I prefer to think of it as a reality.


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