Take Note of Tis: Getting Along with Your Administrators and Building Staff

I asked my favorite Principal to reflect on how music specialists could integrate into a building and build a solid relationship with their administrator and fellow staff. Here are her thoughts --Holly Olszewski

I have been fortunate throughout my career as a building principal to work with many outstanding specials teachers. In my experience, specials teach- ers are assigned to multiple buildings and multiple grade levels. Tis can make it challenging for these teachers to feel like an integral part of a staff and school community. It takes extra effort from the principal and specials teachers to build a solid working relationship that ultimately will benefit students and families as well as staff.

Begin with the End in Mind As a building principal, it was important to me to have a cohesive staff with a common vision and goals. Tis meant all staff working together to ensure the safety of students, a strong focus on increased student achievement, and a respectful, positive learning environment. By working col- laboratively with each other, we were able to draw on the strengths and talents of all staff to reach our goals.

Communication and Time are Key Any meaningful relationship has two main com- ponents: strong two-way communication and time to interact with each other. When I made time to talk with my specials teachers it helped them to feel valued and a part of our team. By being an active listener, I was able to understand what was im- portant to them as educators as well as their points of view. Tey were able to learn more about me, my values and thought processes. Making time for these interactions afforded us the opportunity to learn how their talents and skills could help us achieve our goals.


Meaningful Growth I am not an expert in the areas of Art, Physical Education, Music, or World Languages – far from it as a matter of fact. However, over the course of my career and developing relationships with my specials teachers I increased my knowledge of each area through conversations about their area of expertise, pedagogy, and subject-specific standards. We were able to have meaningful discussions about

Caroline Wacker

student learning and effective strategies. I could draw upon my experiences with other specials teachers to provide feedback, suggestions for growth, and highlight their areas of strength. In order for our students to receive a well-rounded education, it was important for us to focus on the experiences students had in their specials classes just as much as their experiences in the core class- es. By honoring the value and importance of arts in education, staff knew that I had high expecta- tions for their work with students.

It Takes a Village Over the years I learned that my specials teach- ers were a vital part of developing a strong sense of community within the school setting. Teir involvement and active participation in staff meetings, committee meetings, school events, and the day-to-day operations of the school resulted in a richer educational experience for our students. Te arts provided a positive avenue for parental involvement in their child’s education. Events such as concerts, art gallery nights, and field days brought parents into the school and allowed stu- dents to showcase their achievements. Grade level teachers were able to hear new perspectives and ideas during meetings. Tey worked collaborative- ly to merge the learning from the classroom and specials classes by brief co-planning sessions for specific topics of study periodically throughout the year. Learning took on new meaning when it was presented in multiple ways.

Specials teachers bring a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives to a school commu- nity. Te benefit to student learning is a tremen- dous payoff for the time and effort it takes to build a collaborative working relationship with all staff. Te principal helps establish a positive tone for this work to occur, but all staff have a part to play in making a strong learning environment for stu- dents. It is never too late to begin a conversation and strengthen the involvement of the arts in your own school.

Caroline Wacker is a recently retired educator with 33 years of experience in public education. She was a special education teacher for five years, an elementary principal for 26 years, and K-12 English Language Arts Leader for three years. She now works as an educational consultant.

General Music

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