How School Administrators Respond to Teacher Affect

The teacher-student relationship is a vital component to the social, emotional, and academic growth of students. Nationwide the one constant in teachers’ classrooms are the observations by administrators. Administrators play a supporting role for students and teachers in our modern educational system. The present case study examined four middle schools in a school district in Southern California. Four principals, four assistant principals, six teachers, and one superintendent of human resources were interviewed. Classroom observations with administrators were also conducted. Previous terms used to describe negative teacher affect have been teacher bullying, student maltreatment, and student victimization. Teacher affect was chosen to delineate the behaviors rather than the intentionality. The findings suggest administrators look to the students and their interaction with the teacher to help recognize positive or negative affect. Although no formal training takes place, much informal collaboration among administrators happens behind the scenes to decide on how best to support a teacher demonstrating negative affect. All participants agreed the best way for administration to encourage positive affect was by modeling it themselves with staff and students. Creating a positive school environment for staff and students was important and most participants noted the belief of positivity coming from the top, at a district level, and flowing down into the classrooms. The suggestions for the educational community are concepts that can be implemented simply and economically to support a positive learning environment.