Your teachers and educational support professionals are at the forefront, expertly balancing student needs with administrative demands and navigating the educational landscape with grace and skill. They give their all, day in and day out, and you want to make sure they feel supported. Here’s how you can help cultivate a culture of fulfillment and growth.
1. Prioritize the physical and emotional well-being of your staff.
When your staff feels well mentally and physically, they are able to do their best work. On the flip side, when they are burnt out, they have trouble meeting the bare minimum. You can create a school culture that prioritizes mental and physical health.
- Tap into your staff’s reasons for going into education. Highlight the reasons during staff meetings and professional development. Remind them by celebrating their successes and supporting them through challenges.
- Encourage staff to practice self-care. Bring in self-care experts for professional development sessions. Organize an after-school yoga session. Provide healthy snacks in the faculty room. Create a library of digital resources on self-care.
- Reduce stressors that can lead to drama. Address issues sooner rather than later. Get rid of competitiveness. Set up teacher mentors. Facilitate an atmosphere of teamwork.
- Don’t overload teachers with responsibilities. Allow catch-up days where you don’t plan formal programming.
2. Be visible and available.
Supportive administrators are accessible and approachable. They are a common presence throughout the school. Faculty and staff have opportunities to interact with them on a daily basis.
- Walk the hallways during high traffic times. Be seen by students and staff. Engage them in conversation during recess and lunch.
- Make it a point to greet faculty and staff by name, so they know that you know who they are. Personally welcome new staff, including substitutes.
- Maintain an open-door policy at your office, or if you cannot, post times when you will have open-door office hours. Be accessible before and after school.
- Drop into the teacher lounge and ask how teachers are doing.
3. Respect educators’ time.
Educators and support professionals have a lot on their plate. There’s often more work than hours in the school day. Understanding that your staff’s time is valuable will help guide you in managing staff responsibilities and expectations.
- Submit meeting agendas at least 24 hours in advance. This will allow your staff to have time to review it so they can appropriately respond in a meeting.
- Do you have straightforward information to share at a meeting? Send an email instead. Just because a faculty meeting is on the calendar doesn’t mean you have to have one.
- Have a “ditch” meeting. Discuss the activities/responsibilities that can be eliminated. This will allow your staff to focus on priorities.
- Ask for staff input on professional development days. Work with them to schedule meaningful programming that helps them in their jobs.
4. Communicate effectively.
Good communication is important. It ensures that teachers and educational support professionals have the information that they need to get the job done. It also builds relationships and eliminates inefficiencies.
- Create a weekly schedule that goes to all staff. Email the schedule early on Monday morning with the most important information and documents hyperlinked. These can include department meeting reminders, agendas, school events, links for teachers to join a testing session, etc. (Pro Tip: Make it a Google doc and you can provide live updates as things change.)
- Add faculty birthdays at the bottom of the weekly schedule to celebrate your staff and their milestones.
- Build in time for peer collaboration. This type of communication gives teachers a chance to share best practices, and gives new teachers the chance to learn.
- Write a handwritten note to staff members to celebrate achievements and to thank them for their service.
5. Provide resources and tools.
Teachers repeatedly spend their own money for classroom supplies. Investing in high-quality curriculum and providing resources for classrooms goes a long way toward supporting teachers and staff.
- Find free resources and tools, and educator discounts, and regularly share them with your staff. Ask staff to do the same.
- Seek sources of funding for educational supplies and programs from grants, PTA fundraisers, community donations, etc.
- Work with the local library to borrow/access items from books to technology.
- Post classroom wish lists on the school website so parents and others may donate.
6. Support your teachers’ decisions.
One of the most difficult times for a teacher is when administrator support is lacking when they make difficult decisions on grading or behavior. When parents go over the teacher’s head to the principal, it’s important that the administrator supports the teacher’s decision. Siding with the parent undermines the teacher’s authority.
- Meet with the teacher privately to ascertain the extent of the complaint and the reasons that the teacher made the decision.
- Determine ahead of time whether any concessions can be made, with the teacher’s support.
- Meet with the teacher and parent and discuss the situation and possible resolutions.
7. Ensure evaluations are meaningful.
Teacher evaluations can be a source of stress but they don’t need to be. The ultimate goal is to help teachers maximize their effectiveness. Administrators and teachers can get the most out of them when they are done with understanding on both sides.
- Pre-game with the teacher. Share the evaluation tool. Discuss the upcoming lesson and what you’ll expect to observe. Ask the teacher if there’s anything that he/she wants you to pay special attention to.
- Send your completed evaluation as soon as possible following the lesson.
- Choose just a few high-impact points that the teacher can focus on for improvement. Provide concrete examples of what he or she can do.
- Make sure to mention the positives. Praise teachers for what they are doing right.
- Do not copy and paste from one teacher’s evaluation to another. Not only could it backfire, but each individual assessment also deserves its own evaluation.
8. Listen and incorporate feedback.
Good listening skills will go a long way in managing staff and helping meet their needs. Teachers and educational support professionals have a lot to share. Tap into their “inside track” as the educators on the front lines.
- Ask for feedback on everything from schedules to curriculum to discipline. Then, listen and take notes.
- Discover the “pain points”—the things that are not working well — so that the school may address them.
- Allow teachers to be part of the decision-making process and you will get their buy-in. You also will get some creative and practical solutions.
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