Should teachers and administrators be friends?
Should teachers and administrators be friends?

This week, I would like to run an editorial question and an opinion piece about teachers and administrators

Here are what some folks in the field of education think:

"I think if they are, they have to accept that there will be accusations of favoritism. They also need to be careful discussing work issues outside of work. A teacher who is friends with an admin has more access and chances to persuade the admin of their perspective." - Walton Burns, Senior Editor, Alphabet Publishing

"I agree with the "favoritism bit." I have been in jobs where the administrator was elevated to a role and had a tough time keeping the same "friendships" when she became an administrator. Favoritism can definitely seem present." - Jennifer Lenarz, 10th grade English teacher

"Absolutely. Quite often the friendships began earlier in their careers and should continue even though coming from different purposes now. If new to each other, friendship can develop through collaboration and trust." - Dr. Michael Curran, Rider University

"Wherever I have taught, the most comfortable of these relationships have been with administrators that welcomed connections. Social events among colleagues goes a long way to strengthen those bonds and develop the trust I have in my administor. When I've needed an understanding admin., it is because we see each other in more than just an evaluator/evaluate capacity." -Colleen Simpson, Library Media Specialist

"I will always treat my staff with respect, and care about them, but reserve the deep relationships for those outside my school tribe and those in my admin circle. I would suspect there are many definitions of friends and friendship in people's minds, too. We should treat all people as friends, but as a former administrator, there are some things, many for legal reasons, that we cannot and should not discuss with others. As an evaluator, I also believe that we have to draw a line between our jobs and the depth of our relationships." - Jackie Nieukirk,  Retired Principal

"As a teacher who has taught in a few different schools, I've always developed friendships with my admin and maintained relationships as I've moved around, professionally and personally. They are mentors to me and important in my life." - Melissa Thompson, Grade 5 Teacher/Teaching and Learning Coordinator at The Ottawa Jewish Community School

"Yes. Work is work, and I can separate the two. As an expat, your staff is your family. When I was in the U.S., it was still possible but more difficult." - Jeremy Williams, Head of School, Manor Hall International School Al Ain 

"I think we need to know what friends means for this. You can be friendly, and that is important, but when one person has evaluative power over another, friendship can be hard to maintain." - Nicholas Provenzano, the Nerdy Teacher 

"I prefer to work in a school where administrators are friends with faculty and staff. It promotes a feeling of family and everyone working for the same cause and reduces the separation between the office and the classroom." - Nicole Neal, English Teacher, Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Pa.  

"I think when it works it's great. My kids' elementary school is like a giant family, and I love it. You can feel the good vibes. Teachers, parents, etc., all hang out." - Lori Vaccaro Stark, Parent and Former Elementary School Teacher.

"I think it is the perfect setup for a healthy school environment. Students benefit from the harmonious relationships, and the professional morale remains high. It goes far beyond mutual respect. #leadership" Gena Cooley, 5th Grade LAL Teacher

"I believe it's a double-edged sword. Yes, obviously they can be friends. They will connect with certain teachers right away. The connection brings a closeness that most likely makes them better administrators to those teachers because they bring them into the discussion." - Jill Holder, 6th Grade Math and Social Studies Teacher

"In school where edu philosophy and ideology is constantly being brought to the forefront, it's natural for like-minded people to become close. The position should not affect this relationship, professional or personal. And friendships last longer than tenure in a position #leadership." - Stacey Weinberg, Staff Developer for Technology and Assistive Technology

"I personally think you can, and in some cases, I think it's inevitable. If you spend your career working toward being an administrator in one building, you would have formed friendships along the way." - Gina Barr, Special Education Teacher

Ultimately, I think we have to specify the difference between building positive relationships with all staff and developing deep friendships with some. A mentor of mine said it was important to define what I meant by "friend," and others have touched on that as well.

Although there is certainly a distinction between being friends and being friendly, I do believe that people in leadership can be friends with their team. Whether teachers grow into leadership roles and stay in the district they worked in for years, or a new leader who still identifies as a teacher moves into a new district and becomes friends with the people he or she works with, it's OK. 

We must acknowledge that there could be challenges and we need to be transparent about them. Boundaries should be clearly delineated, and no one should be given preferential treatment as this will erode the leader's effectiveness and alienate the teacher involved.

What are your thoughts about friendships between administration and teachers? Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear it!

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This piece has been published in Education Week Teacher and courtesy of Starr Sackstein.

Articles Posted at: 11/28/2018