There’s no doubt that the last 18 months have been historically difficult and uncomfortable for educators and students. Now that schools are back in session and we’re returning to a sense of normalcy, teachers are in desperate need of additional job-embedded professional development, encouragement, and support from their school leaders, peers, students, and families. So, as our teachers and students return to school, you should be asking yourself these questions:
- “Am I doing enough to encourage and provide teacher support?”
- “Actions speak louder than words. What do teachers need from administrators? Do I lead by example every single day?”
- “Would my staff or colleagues feel safe and comfortable approaching me about their concerns? Do I provide motivational and bite-sized actionable feedback?”
Once you’ve asked those questions, you can take a step back to assess your reflective debrief sessions and the feedback you are providing. Determine whether or not you are on track to achieve your student achievement vision for success.
If it’s evident that you need to improve upon the support that you’re providing to your teachers, this is the perfect article for you. We’ve put together a shortlist with three tips on how you can significantly impact your teachers this school year. Let’s dive in!
Tip 1: Prioritize building relationships with your teaching staff.
Teams are only as strong as their weakest units, so you must make an effort to strengthen the bonds between school leaders and teachers regularly. While hierarchical structures exist within educational institutions, it doesn’t need to feel like a top-down decision-making process.
Instead, you can use an inclusive approach where everyone’s voice is heard, valued, and welcomed. Strong administrator-teacher relationships are paramount to running a successful school, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to nourish yours.
Teachers are on the front lines every day, navigating the challenges thrown at them in the form of district mandates, the diverse needs of students in their classrooms, and community stakeholders. Some teachers are barely hanging on because of the ever-changing landscape, which has caused them to rethink their career choice.
Your job as a school leader is to create a work environment that uplifts teachers and relieves some challenges. Make their jobs easier.
Teachers should always feel comfortable approaching the school’s leaders with concerns or questions. They need to feel confident that their leadership trusts them as professionals, so do your best to show them respect and encourage open communication. That means it’s your job to create a work environment that welcomes honest feedback to improve the culture and climate in your school.
You want your teachers to believe in the school’s vision for student achievement success and work hand-in-hand with you to improve the outcomes of all students. Learn more about how school leaders can create a collaborative, positive, and proactive school environment that supports teachers and accelerates student achievement by implementing some research-proven strategies shared in our blog about shared leadership.
Tip 2: Get creative with getting to know your teachers.
We’ve talked about building and nurturing relationships, but actions speak louder than words. Are you asking yourself what you can do to build stronger relationships with your team of educators? Here are a few suggestions to get creative in developing new or existing relationships with your team:
- Make yourself available for dedicated one-on-one monthly or quarterly check-ins, but don’t make them mandatory. As Jennifer Gonzalez shared in her letter to administrators, teachers have more than enough meetings on their plates. This is in addition to teaching, grading, student or parent conferences, after-school activities, and so much more.
- Host optional group sessions with topics or activities that are relevant to your staff. The goal is to create an open forum where teachers can share whatever they want with their peers.
Their feedback should be considered, and ideally, teachers will experience the positive changes implemented based on their input. Some ideas for topics include:
- How to navigate difficult conversations with a student or parent
- Creative solutions to balancing work and home life as a teacher
- Team-building games
- Professional learning opportunities that are aligned to school improvement targets and teacher interests to support teaching and learning
- Open-floor sessions where teachers can share ideas, ask questions, or voice general concerns
- Offer optional, low-cost offsite gatherings that bring everyone together. Offsite gatherings are an excellent opportunity to relieve your staff of their job duties while providing them with a professional — but fun and inviting — environment to learn, socialize, and bond with one another.
- Provide your staff with opportunities to safely provide positive feedback and constructive recommendations to school administration. You can do this through anonymous online platforms or by putting a box labeled opinions in the teachers’ lounge.
To get authentic, actionable feedback from your staff, provide them with opportunities to share their opinions, feelings, and recommendations. Be sure to let them know that teamwork will make the school’s dreams work. The only way to stay on track to meet your school’s performance targets is by embracing open and honest communication as an essential lever in the continuous improvement process. Teachers need to know that they are valued partners on the journey toward improving teaching, learning, and meeting the school’s performance targets.
Tip 3: Be goal-oriented, be organized, and be transparent with your teachers.
There are few things more frustrating to teachers than being hit with unexpected changes to schedules, deadlines, or required metrics, especially if the short notice is avoidable. Knowing that their jobs are already stressful, you can change how you organize and manage your time rather than imposing additional hardship on them.
So, we recommend that you set goals and consistently adhere to a structured approach for implementing changes. Communicate early and often with your team to create a healthy working environment.
- Aimless or scattered administrators will find it challenging to build or maintain relationships or trust with their staff. Those that regularly throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of teachers trying to operate as autonomous professionals will suffer from a lack of confidence, buy-in, and engagement.
Frustration will lead to teacher turnover and a lack of credibility for you as a school leader. Set goals for yourself, your staff, and your school as a whole, and make a conscious effort to measure your progress throughout the year.
- Being organized is essential. When it comes to weekly lesson plan submissions, preparation phases between semesters, or even just daily upkeep around the school, it’s your job as a school leader to lead by example.
If you want your school to operate like a well-oiled machine, devise systems that make sense to everyone on your team and do your best to maintain a consistent routine. School leaders who demonstrate that they are instructional leaders who have their act together will likely have a teaching staff that follows suit. They’ll feel that you’ve protected their time and valued their efforts if everything runs without a hitch.
- As a school leader, you must keep your teachers in the loop about new initiatives, policies, or upcoming changes that will impact them. Teachers are expected to make decisions about instruction based on their students’ diverse needs each day while managing the additional responsibilities that come with the job. There’s no need to keep them in the dark and bring a level of uncertainty into their lives.
When you receive information that must be shared, inform them soon so they can plan for the change effectively. Your team will feel included if you regularly demonstrate transparent communication practices and act as a trustworthy resource.
How school leaders can support teachers doesn’t stop at the end of this article. There are many other creative ways you can demonstrate support for your team of educators. Continue to check out our blog posts like this one on Professional Development for Principals for additional insights on how you can continue to improve as a school leader and coworker.
We would love to provide personalized recommendations for your school’s continuous improvement process! Schedule a free call with one of our experienced consultants to help us understand the challenges you face as a school leader and design a plan that drives results.