Submitted by Travis A. Henry
Band and Chorus Director
River Ridge Middle School
New Port Richey, FL
Let me start by saying that I enjoy working with administrators!!
While everyone may not share in my sentiments, I can tell you that throughout my career as a band director, I have worked with some great leaders. I have worked with four different principals, as well as countless other administrators who have been appointed as principals themselves. I believe that the greatest reason for my experience has been my working to establish close relationships with our school’s leaders. I consider many of these leaders to be friends to this day.
Of course, not all of my interactions with administrators have been good ones. I can recall some disagreements, hurt feelings, and disappointments over a lack of support, not dealing with students in some way, and even over curricular decisions that I felt that I should be making as the classroom teacher. No matter what challenges we face as teachers, winning relationships with administrators are not only possible for band directors, they are ESSENTIAL. So, how do we get there?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!
The quality of ANY relationship depends on communication!! For band directors, we like to go to work every day and “do the work”. However, in doing the work, we often leave our administrators in the dark about what’s going on. As a result, when administrators make decisions that affect our classes or students, problems may arise. A lot of times, it is because of conflicting information, or not enough information for administrators to work with us. We can help ourselves by doing the following:
Plan Things WITH Administrators
Oftentimes, we plan out everything for our students: fundraisers, concert programs, field trips, recruitment, and we should expect to deal with those tasks. However, we do not have to do those things alone. Sharing our plans with administrators can actually be a tremendous help!! Our administrators bring many different backgrounds and perspectives that can benefit us and our students. As we get them involved, even though we are the ones who coordinate everything together, it gives them a sense of pride in knowing they played a small part in the success of the students.
Administrators enjoy working on incentives and celebrations for students who achieve, so allow them to be a part of a celebration for success at an MPA or concert. Administrators deal with so many negative aspects of their jobs, and allowing them to help in a positive endeavor results in them respecting our programs so much more.
Putting Ourselves in Their Shoes
My wife (who is also an administrator) has helped me the most in this area. I appreciate her perspective on education, dealing with parents, and she is also a “sounding board” for me. While she always understands my perspective, her wisdom allows me to see things differently. She helps me to see the “administrative side”, which often keeps me out of trouble!! Her perspective may sometimes show me where my view may not be the best.
While this may sound like a bad thing, it can actually help us to be better leaders. Here’s how:
From my experience, administrators want teachers to be successful!! They want their schools to be THE BEST. We, as band directors, are an integral part in this endeavor! We are the most visible entity on our campuses throughout the year. We must give our administrators that picture about our band programs!! Administrators can certainly “make or break” us in many ways, but we must take advantage of the opportunity to help administrators see our program as essential. If we handle the “business side” of band directing well, then it makes the “music side” much more enjoyable!!!