The Principal Paradigm Part 2: Prioritize Your People (with Jeff Harper)
In this episode, I’m talking with none other than Jeff Harper. If you've followed me for a while then you know how much I love and admire Amber Harper of The Burned In Teacher. She's a treasured friend and mentor and I’m honored to be talking more about the teacher-administrator relationship with her husband!
I jokingly refer to him as “Mr. Burned-In Teacher” though he prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Jeff is a husband, a father of two girls, and an educator. His education experience includes multiple years of teaching in elementary grades along with school administration experience in grades PreK through 12. He is currently an elementary school principal.
Jeff's transparency about his leadership style and the way he prioritizes the people around him are truly commendable and I’m excited to shed light on the principal paradigm from an actual principal’s point of view.
I hope that through our conversation, you’re reminded that it’s possible to have a positive, transparent, working relationship with your administrator and that you feel encouraged and empowered to cultivate a healthy working relationship with your building leaders.
In this conversation, Jeff shares:
“Let people know that they are a priority.”
Being able to provide support to his teachers is what Jeff believes is his most important role, but he also reminds us that support looks different for everyone. Jeff believes that showing his staff that they are a prioity starts with him getting to know his staff at both a personal and professional level. Jeff continues to show his staff that they are a priority by intentionally scheduling (and keeping) productive meetings with his staff. It really easy, Jeff explains, for principals to focus their time and attention staff and/or teams who are struggling, but this can cause other teams - even high preforming teams - to fall through the cracks. In addition to his presence showing staff that they are a priority, Jeff shares that he’s really intentional to ensure that his meetings that he does schedule with staff are productive. He insistes on making sure that his staff co-plan their meetings so that the meetings that follow are aligned to what they need.
“You have to have shared leadership.”
One’s leadership qualties span far beyond that degree or issued licences. It’s the qualities that a person possess that makes them a true leader or not. Jeff shares that - in his building - he feels that it’s important for teachers to be empowered to be in leadership roles - if they wish. Therefore, Jeff feels that it’s his role as the building principal, to work to forster those qualities in his those of his teachers that either share their desire to be in leadership roles, or even the ones that he can sense potential greatneess in. But, desire is not the only thing that Jeff considers when placing teachers into leadership roles within his building. It takes really knowing a staff’s strengths and understanding how those strengths could be leveraged in the most effective manner to benefit the entire school community. And before placing teachers into leadership roles, he always considers the needs of the team/teams that the person will be influencing to ensure that they have what that team needs to continue to move forward.
“Do you really know someone?”
How well do you know your administrators? This can extend beyond building level administration and also include district level administrators, but Jeff challenges us to see administrators beyond their role and as a human - which is a lens that Jeff works to see his staff through. Jeff reminds us that, while administrators are in that “boss-type” role, they are still humans - so getting to know them on that level will go a long way in cultivating a positive relationship.
Teachers can teach and live more authentically by remembering that simplicity is key.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Connect with Jeff
Jeff is a husband, a father of two girls, and an educator. His education experience includes multiple years of teaching in elementary grades along with school administration experience in grades PreK through 12.
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