Originally featured in LeadupNow.com

Most school leaders would say that transparency is one of their guiding principles in their school. But when faced with tough opposition in the midst of change, consider this: is your lack of putting transparency into practice hindering growth? Teachers will listen to their leaders when they perceive their leaders as co-learners alongside them in the journey. When leaders open up about their own failures and are transparent about their motives, teachers are willing to share the same. How do we move from a “feel good” word to an action that can transform culture? Here are 3 ways leaders can increase transparency in their schools.

Transparency in Walkthroughs. Principals belong in classrooms alongside of teachers, period. Principals also give frequent and sincere affirmation and effective feedback. Even with these two actions in check, there is the question of “what are you basing your feedback on or from?” If principals and teachers are co-developing student success outcomes and classroom “look-fors,” there is a mutual agreement on the kinds of evidence that will be collected.  A google doc or OneNote is a great way of communicating and tracking walkthrough data. This living document would be co-created with the teacher, and each time the principal engages with the classroom, a simple checklist, narrative, or other agreed upon indicators are addressed. The teacher doesn’t have to wait for the email that comes late at night or the next day, it’s updated live in the classroom.

Transparency in 360s. As an administrator, it was tough to receive anonymous evaluations from teachers. Yes, there were always the positive comments, but as humans, what do we tend to fixate on? Yes, those constructive comments. As leaders we know that the only way to grow as a leader and help our teachers and students grow is to unearth and illuminate those challenges, failures, inefficiencies, etc. And when I say illuminate, I mean, share those anonymous survey results with everyone. This sends a clear message: I’m willing to share my shortcomings for the sake of our growth.

Transparency in Perception. What do teachers and students perceive about the school environment? Does it embrace diversity and equality? Is it conducive to positivity, creativity, innovation, and collaboration. Principals should find this out and find this out often. A weekly and very brief survey can be shared digitally, asking teachers and students to rate the areas mentioned above, with an opportunity to share suggestions and wishes. The “scores” from the surveys are shared with everyone and should be used to not only take a pulse of the culture, but continuously track it for the sake of growth.

Transparency is an often overused term but and underutilized action by leaders. Modeling this kind of “no holds barred” or “everything is fair game” mentality, can turn a stagnant culture into a thriving one that hinges on open communication, sincere relationships, and trusted leaders.



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