Ten Ways to Improve Communication with Your School Administration

Jayson Gerth • August 2023Commentary • August 20, 2023

Since I began teaching in 1995, I have had the fortune to work for some tremendous administrators. Usually, what they simply wanted was communication. While there are many ways to go about it, here are ten ideas to consider for better communication with your administrators. Implementing any will help, and putting as many as you can into practice will benefit you professionally and foster a more positive relationship with your administration. You will also find in your effort to improve communication and accountability, the benefit to parents, students, and the greater community will be huge.

First, an acknowledgement. These ideas are for everyone in education who reports to someone else, be they just starting or in their 30th year. If you’re reading this, you’re likely already teaching and have a rapport with an administrator. Whether it is positive or negative, simple or complex, healthy or not, you can start now to improve your relationship through better communication. 

Set aside a moment each week to summarize your work and send it to your principal.

Your principal wants to brag about positive things going on in his or her building. He or she wants great things to proudly talk about to the school board, higher levels of administration, and the community. Make it easier for them and advocate for your program at the same time. 

Every few weeks, set aside a few minutes and reflect on the good that happened in your program. Jot it all down in a quick email and send it off to your principal. Let them know there are good things happening in your classroom, and you’d like to keep them apprised. Ask them if they have questions. Offer to explain anything that isn’t clear. 

As a side benefit, you will have a series of emails talking about the positive in your program sitting in your ‘sent’ folder. You can go back and use these emails to create a monthly or quarterly email newsletter to parents and/or the community. And, if you ever find yourself looking for a position in another school district, you can use the great stuff in these emails as fodder to highlight your accomplishments.

Stop by and say hi… without an agenda.

School administrators have people coming to them all day long. They are bombarded with problems, questions, and needs, often with underlying ulterior motives. Why not be the person who stops by to just say ‘hi’? Your school administrator is a person trying to do their best just like you and could use a break with some positive vibes. 

Simply swinging by the office just to say ‘hi’ can mean the world to an administrator, and you can bet he or she will remember. Sure, you’re putting goodwill deposits into the relationship bank so when you must make a withdrawal later, there is some capital built up in the account, but that is how human-to-human interaction works. You’re in this together!

When coming with an issue, be prepared with several feasible solutions.

School administrators must balance the needs of every teacher, staff person, and department in their building. They are not the experts in your music program, you are. When you come to your principal with an issue that needs their attention, do some work on your own beforehand and present them with a few different feasible solutions.

In doing this, you present solutions you can live with right out of the gate. Principals don’t have the luxury of time to mull over most decisions, so if you’re offering him or her a few ways to solve a problem easily and efficiently, you’re showing respect for their time. If the issue takes more thought, your solutions will give your administrator guardrails for their thinking. Offering solutions, even if they are not used, will show you are a problem solver, one who goes beyond simply identifying a problem. Being viewed this way will likely pay dividends in the level of trust and autonomy your administrator may give you.

Proactively communicate with parents and students.

Teachers who are proactive with communication are usually more successful than those who are not. To paraphrase author and life coach Jon Gordon, “where communication lacks, negativity fills the void.” It’s incredibly important to communicate with your parents, students, and community. Keeping people on the same page with up-to-date calendars, grade expectations, program updates, and other essentials is the best way to maintain a positive image in the eyes of your stakeholders. When communication is lacking from you, your students and parents often turn to the place where they feel they will get results: school administration. If you are proactive and highly communicative, you cut down the number of phone calls and emails your administrator receives and have happier parents and students. Win-win! 

If you have an issue with a student in class, bring parents into the conversation early. Doing so will hopefully create at-home allies in the work to get troubled students back on track. Moms and dads can’t help you if they don’t know anything is wrong! A few years ago, I had two freshman students in my band who were constantly disruptive influences. After trying to work with them informally to correct their behavior, I began following up with parents and the administration on subsequent interactions (both positive and negative). As is often the case, by bringing the parents and administration into the conversation, I found out the student behaviors were not isolated to my room. As time went on, it was clear the high school band was not the right fit for them, and when the time came to move them to another elective in mid-semester, the support and communication were there.

My principals implore us to communicate grade and behavior issues early and often. Commonly before they return an angry parent’s phone call or email, their first communication is to the teacher to see what we have done alongside parents to help solve an issue. After all, we are on the same team in the common interest of our students. Communication is everyone’s job, no matter how pleasant or difficult the conversations.

Give them good news fast and bad news faster. 

Along these same lines, it’s never a good idea to put your administrator in a position where they feel blindsided. Give your administration a warning when trouble is brewing. Doing so can give you time together to troubleshoot a response everyone is comfortable with. In particularly challenging situations, this courtesy will also give administrators time to process a response and allow them to be their best selves in the conversations ahead. It honors their human need to display competence and confidence in difficult situations and demonstrates your respect and trust in them. 

Communicate ways administrators can help you that don’t involve money.

Many years ago, I taught alongside a wonderful special education teacher who was an activities director and administrator in a past life (and now, as it happens, serves on my school district’s school board). He told me how he would come to his coaches and music directors and ask how he could help them in ways that didn’t involve money. Most school administrators truly want every school program to succeed and are always looking for creative ways to do it.

Your administrator has the black and white, objective bottom line ever present in mind. They are always analyzing costs and benefits while simultaneously doing their best to support teachers and staff. If you can come to them with ideas to make your program better and/or elevate the culture or atmosphere of the school without involving money, they may likely support it and certainly remember you for it.

Listen to your administrator when talking to them. 

Conversations with administrators are often agenda driven. They may come to you with an agenda, or you to them. In the quest to make our points and plead our cases, it’s easy to focus on our agenda so intently we do not hear what the other person is saying. Rather than listening and processing, we’re formulating our comeback. We don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply.

When talking with your administrator, it is important to hear the feedback coming back to you. Remember, you’re on the same team, and your administrator will likely ask clarifying questions and offer different perspectives. Slow down, listen, ask clarifying questions yourself, and process what you’re hearing. 

When there is no agenda on the line and you’re just chatting before or after school, during lunch, or just swinging by the office, get a feel for what is concerning them now, what is frustrating them, or what’s lifting their sails. If you can, help with the former, find ways to amplify the latter.

Be aware of the three v’s in communication.

The basics of communication happen within the “three v’s:” verbal communication, vocal communication, and visual communication. These combine to offer your listener a clear picture of your intention. When you’re communicating with your administrator, keep the three v’s in mind. Stay congruent and stay consistent.

Find out in advance what pre-arranged meetings are about. 

Opening an email from your principal with the subject line “Time to chat?” can raise stress and anxiety. The first questions that pop into mind are natural ones: 

What could this be about? What did I do? 

Without answers, anxiety can grow. While replying to set up a time, ask your administrator what they’d like to talk about, what you can prepare, and/or what answers are needed. This can lower your anxiety while making the meeting more efficient and effective. 

My high school just built a new stadium. Part of the process included meetings with all the major stakeholders. The meeting with the band staff was scheduled by the architects, but there wasn’t much more direction given about what they would need from us. I followed up with my activities director and found out this meeting would be an opportunity to express what we wanted from the facility. Knowing this, I researched best practices for stadium design from a marching band perspective, talked with friends who recently completed the stadium building process, and brainstormed a wish list. When the meeting time came, the floor was opened to our input right away. As the ideas flowed, the architects and administrators were clearly impressed by our preparation. Had I not asked what was needed to prepare for the meeting, we would have missed the best opportunity to clearly articulate our needs.  

Repeat/paraphrase what you heard them say.

The conversational technique called “active listening” promotes clarity and lets the other party know they are heard. When communicating with your administration, having clarity can have long-ranging ramifications. If you think you’re on the same page, but are missing key details or understandings, those gaps can cause confusion, anger, and frustration. Being clear will prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Even if you’re misunderstanding, simply following up with “What I hear you saying is…” will show the other person you are listening and validate them.  


Most of these ideas seem like common sense, but in the day-to-day grind, the basics of communication and relating to our fellow teachers and our administrators, and our community, can get lost in the shuffle. Awareness and intentionality will go a long way to bridging the communication gap between us and our programs and those who lead our schools.

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