If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that teachers are incredibly resilient, resourceful, and ready to move forward. Besides working through a pandemic, whether in-class with stringent safety precautions or remotely while also dealing with personal responsibilities, teachers have proven that they are willing to make the effort. Why? There’s a lot of heart in the teaching profession. Many teachers will attest to the joy they feel from seeing their students’ eyes light up when they understand a new concept or are excited by a hands-on project. Being in a classroom, teachers are able to work closely with their students, observe how they collaborate with one another, and celebrate achievements as a group. But with what seems like the unending concerns over health and safety, learning loss and closing gaps, and the social-emotional well-being of their students, teachers need more than a “Good job!” and “Keep going!” What can school principals do so that teachers feel like they’re being seen, heard, and supported?
- Set the tone by creating a supportive environment where teachers know you empathize with their struggles and want to understand what they’re having to go through. This means getting to know each member of your school community including their strengths. Recognize those strengths and encourage mentorship.
- Have realistic expectations of what students should be expected to achieve academically. Teachers know that many of their students have fallen behind for a variety of reasons, including mandatory school closures and challenges with remote learning. They feel the pressure of trying to get their students caught up and providing extra support beyond school hours but this can be detrimental to their emotional, mental, and physical health. Be patient and flexible.
- Provide feedback that is specific and positive. Identify and celebrate successes, as well as provide constructive feedback that helps teachers grow professionally. Be willing to ask for their professional input on decisions that will affect them, their students, and the school. Involve teachers in the decision-making process since they are the ones who are directly working with students.
- Establish an open-dialogue policy where teachers can voice concerns and ask questions, such as at the end of staff meetings. Also offer open office hours so that staff can drop in (or visit virtually depending on the learning situation) and talk with you. Listen to their anxieties, frustrations, and worries and offer help or make changes as needed. This open communication reinforces the importance of having a shared mission.
- Respect their time by cutting unnecessary meetings that will not necessarily create a positive school culture. Limit interruptions such as school announcements so that their instructional time is protected. More and more schools are using digital signage to post messages and announcements to help protect instructional time. Reduce the number of emails you send which can cut into a teacher’s personal time and become a source of stress. Use emails as a means of checking-in and to provide positive and encouraging messages.
- Customize professional development that shows you want to meet their needs and are willing to invest in their progress. Acknowledge that they have different strengths, experiences, and interests by involving them in the choice of professional development content. PD organizations, such as Boxlight-EOS, regularly refine course offerings to better meet the needs of the group they work with. Share course offerings with the staff and decide which will work best for them.
How a teacher feels emotionally plays a role in how they teach. The calmer, happier, and positive they feel, the more they are engaged with their students. Students can sense when their teachers are glad to be with them. This can boost their own confidence, excitement, and view on learning. The same can be said for how an administrator conveys their own appreciation, respect, and support for the teachers in their school. So be positive, communicate with kindness, and express your gratitude. You can help influence the overall success of your school.
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