On the 1st Feb 1980, I walked into my first school. It had over 1100 students and about 90 teachers. To say the least I was very nervous. I was 23 years old. I had only been married a bit over 15 months. I wondered if I could teach secondary school kids at all?
As I hesitantly walked down the long corridor, I was stopped by a man who said “Jeff, great to have you with us. I hope you have a great year!” My brain was spinning. I wondered who this guy was, as he warmly shook my hand. How did he know my name? I found out 15 minutes later, at the first staff meeting, that he was Jack McLean, the Principal. Of course he formally introduced all the new staff, but I valued that first informal welcome much more.
As a person, Jack had great people skills. He made his staff feel valued. He was a good listener, and made time to check how his staff were going. The value of this to a school is enormous. Teachers are much more willing to teach tough classes, sit through boring meetings, etc. if they think their efforts are appreciated.
On the negative side, I have had Principals who lacked people skills big time. One belittled me in front of colleagues in the staff room. Another would not look me in the eye or even acknowledge a hello. Another went behind my back and prevented me from teaching a particular class, after a parent complaint the previous year.
Teaching is a people business. So smiles, handshakes, eye contact, compliments, etc are signals that you value people. Two things are very obvious to me:
1. Unlike a manufacturing production line, it is not possible to accurately measure people outcomes.
2. PEOPLE SKILLS of Administrators and Teachers are very important!