Many a teacher still gets the butterflies when called to the office. Which is, ironically, exactly how the kids feel. But for the grown-ups it's not just about getting a time-out—it's your job. Did Ralphie break a leg? Are Roxy's parents on the phone? How will that affect my raise?
It may just be a leftover of childhood, but that nasty feeling is hard to kick with those folks who at the same time have all the answers, but can get a little frightening when you remember they're in charge of your job.
What matters is that when the tough stuff arises, you have an established, professional relationship with your administrator, whether that call to the office is nothing or the grounds of a tougher talk.
So let's get a-started.
1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is where it's at.
Yup, Aretha had it right all along. With administrators, it's important to give it to get it. Use "Mr." or "Ms." to address them unless you've been specifically told otherwise or conventions where you live tell you that would be ridiculous. And in general, read your administrators for cues about the level of formality they require when you are working them.
2. Professionalism, dudes and dudettes.
That's right—the importance of professionalism can't be overstated. Some administrators feel that they should keep teachers at arm's length since they don't want to appear to be partial to their buddies. Others are comfortable with more personal interactions. Either way, keep your own behavior above board, read their cues, and avoid asking for special favors. Unless you read a cue that they want to give you one.
3. Honesty is your best weapon.
Um, asset, not weapon. Anyway, everyone missteps at some point, and administrators know this more than anyone. Even these scary paper-pushers have probably had a few issues of their own. So be honest about your foibles rather than trying to hide them. Then when a big issue arises, they know you've got integrity, and that can't be replaced.
4. Don't make admins' jobs harder than they need to be.
There are some biggies out there that you can do out of the gate: don't discuss personal sex issues with your students, don't harass your colleagues, don't play favorites with students, and don't abuse your power as a teacher. Duh, right? But it helps to put it out there.
5. Be willing to help.
A willingness to cover another teacher's class in an emergency or step in when something's out of line can go a long way. Administrators deal with budgets, student fights, parental complaints, teacher complaints and their own personal lives, so lending a helping hand without complaint is one way you can show you care about your school and your administrators.
In all, it's important to see past the stuffy administrator role some principals and vice principals play and start focusing on administrators as humans. They are as stressed and overwhelmed in the course of the school year just as you are. If you keep that in mind and interact with them like with any other person (sure, maybe with an ounce or two more deference), then you'll be fine.
Even if you're called to the office.