The best principals and superintendents are the ones who say to their staff, “What can I do to help you? What do you need?'” That’s the assessment AFT union head Randi Weingarten shared with senior writer Matt Zalaznick on the premiere episode of “Talking Out of School,” DA‘s new podcast featuring K12 leaders and experts.
Weingarten was discussing the challenging climate teachers face in a heated political environment and what superintendents, principals and other administrators can do to shield them from forces she believes are working to disrupt and dismantle public education.
“We have to create community, and do everything we can to stop the us vs. them mentality,” she contends. “In education, it has to be an ‘us’… if you don’t create a community and people walk into school with a pit in their stomach or a pit in their throat, they’re never going to be on their A-game.”
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It’s also crucial for teachers to know their voices are being heard and that they are playing a role in the decision-making process in their buildings. “That takes will and that takes time and it doesn’t cost a dime to do it,” she points out. “Teachers and staff need to know the people in charge of resources have their backs.”
Without this support, teacher shortages are likely to continue and even worsen. “If you don’t see a profession being respected by the higher-ups, if you see people being bullied or called names, called groomers or indoctrinators, why would you want to go into that kind of profession that gets pilloried as a political matter by one political party?”
In recent school board elections, however, there was a swing back in favor of candidates who support public education after years in which voters elected more conservative members over issues such as masks and book bans,. “I do believe forces of good and force of hope will win out over the forces of hate and forces of fear,” she concludes. “Administration has a really important job to find ways of unifying people and mitigating against these really divisive forces.”
District Administration’s Talking Out of School podcast is where superintendents, principals and other key educational figures share their experiences, strategies and forecasts for K12. Hear what else Randi Weingarten has to say to senior writer Matt Zalaznick about the current state of K12 education, including the connections teachers are making with students, experiential learning and book fairs. Listen below or on Spotify or Podbean.