4 Ways to Improve Teacher Experience
As a former principal, I learned that one of the keys to successful leadership is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. One of those priorities must be focusing on the morale of teachers and staff in the school building. It’s no secret that year after year, teachers are leaving this noble profession due to teacher burnout. While some of the pressures facing teachers are beyond the control of any building leader, principals must use a proactive approach to relieve the internal pressures they can alleviate. Changing even small things can help teachers reduce their stress levels and ultimately stay in the profession.
In my work with CT3, I have found one of the most effective ways to help stressed teachers is to help them better manage their classrooms environments. Teachers usually lack formal training or professional development to understand how to effectively manage their classroom, which leads to increased student engagement. Without this support, they feel lost and do not have a mechanism to request the help and support they need to change. Many teachers tell me they feel like silos in their schools, as they’re visited only a couple of times per year by their administrator or when they do receive feedback, it can be inconsistent or given through email without any direct, hands-on support.
At the heart of this issue lies the school leader’s ability to create a sustainable work environment that promotes longevity in this profession. Helping teachers to achieve balance requires a proactive approach. Here are four ways I help school leaders all over the country become proactive in appreciating teachers, and supporting them in creating a positive and sustainable classroom culture.
- Anticipate the peaks and valleys of your school year. It has been my experience that teachers begin the year energized but feel frustrated, frazzled and overwhelmed during the months of October and March. Proactively schedule a staff appreciation dinner or outing to boost morale during October or March, as well as during testing time or during especially difficult months. Plan and calendar meaningful monthly incentives from the beginning of the school year through the end of the year. Keeping teachers motivated and enthused should never be an afterthought!
- Make coaching and feedback a priority. How do we, as educators, implement best practices beyond simply “telling” and “presenting”? Coaches need to deliver in-the-moment feedback during class. Educators have told us that this changes their practice more than receiving feedback hours or days later. This way, teachers can change course immediately and see the results in their students’ engagement.
- Create procedures that promote self-care and work-life balance. Consider closing your building to all staff early one day a week or month to encourage them to go home rather than work in their classrooms.
- Lead with compassion. Schedule one-on-one check-ins with teachers to celebrate, reflect, inspire or simply listen. Teachers often sacrifice their personal selves for their professional selves. Ensuring that teachers have what they need and feel supported is critical to decreasing burn-out and increasing joy in the classroom for teachers and students.
When intuitive school leaders prioritize people, everything they do reflects the needs of those they serve far beyond teacher appreciation week. Regardless of the political pressures that often envelope our profession, school leaders should lead with their staff in mind. The future stability of our profession depends upon it!
By Joy Treadwell, CT3 Associate
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