This is an exciting time of year for teachers. Before we know it we will be back in the classroom starting an exciting new year with our students. While many teachers work in environments that have a culture that is incredibly supportive and where morale levels are off the chart, I know there are many teachers who are dreading the start of the year. I have had so many conversations with teachers about what would need to change in their districts in order to make them look forward to the start of the year. I just happend to come across a post by Jimmy Casas called Take Morale Out of the Closet and Own It and it really struck a chord with me. The post as well as some of the comments echo what teachers have shared with me.
I want to take a few minutes to share my perspective about what I think many teachers want and need not only from their administrators, but from their coworkers as well.
- Communication— Great communication is necessary for any organization to thrive. When communication breaks down things go downhill quickly. Keep teachers in the loop with information that is relevant to them. Be as transparent as possible and don’t be afraid to share your philosophy with your staff. Take time to listen to your teachers. Why not schedule an individual conference with each teacher during the first few weeks of school? Invite them to share any concerns they have for the coming year.
- Get connected- This might sound selfish, but I want to work with administrators and teachers who are well-connected because they will be better resource sfor me. (As a connected educator I know I am a better resource for them!) Connected educators are actively involved in the types of conversations that don’t typically take place with the people we work with. If my personal learning network (PLN) consisted only of the people with whom I work with face-to-face and see day in and day out, I would not have grown as much as I have over the last five years. It is so important to learn from others who are not in the same physical location as us because they add an entirely different perspective. Local connections are fantastic, but if we only have ties to local educators, we won’t have the opportunity to develop a broad view of the world.
- Understand how to share resources effectively- Being able to manage the flow of information is a vital skill in the 21st century. Sending emails with links to websites is NOT an effective way to share resources with your colleagues. It’s quick and easy, but it is not effective. Why not try sharing resources using a service like Diigo, Educlipper, Evernote or even Pinterest? If you are going to invest time finding and sharing resources why not take the time to organize them using one of the tools I mentioned so they are organized for other teachers down the road? It is 2013. It is no longer acceptable to NOT know how to leverage the power of web tools and social media to share and collaborate.
- Support when we want to try something new and support us when we fail- Not all teachers are willing to step out of their comfort zone to try new things, but those who do deserve to be supported by their administrators and colleagues. Chris Lehmann often asks the question, “What is the worst consequence of your best idea?” I know I am much more willing to try new things when I know the people I work with will be supportive even when things go wrong. I want them there to help dust me off and offer suggestions on how I can improve the next time I try something new.
- Tap into our expertise- You know those teachers that you hired a few years ago? Many of them have been working on their own time to build their skills. While they were hired to teach 4th grade, science, or social studies there is a fantastic chance they may have skills and expertise that you cannot even imagine. I think it is a safe bet to say that teachers who voluntarily invest so much of their own time and money in their own professional development are more than willing to teach others what they know. On average, I spend about $2000 a year on my PD and probably close to 20 hours a week keeping up with my PLN. I want to share what I have learned, but I live in rural Nebraska so my audience is very limited. I know lots of other teachers who want to share, but they can’t and it is quite frustrating. I know some great teachers who have left the classroom because they felt they weren’t reaching their full potential. Please help keep great teachers in the classroom by letting them play the role of staff developer from time to time. Some of them might surprise you with what they know. (Also, tapping into local expertise can save a district a lot of money! So many districts spend thousands PER DAY to bring in experts when they have experts on their payroll!)
- Seek input from teachers- The best administrator I ever had constantly asked for input from the teachers. When someone is genuinely interested in what I have to say it makes me feel like I matter, that I am valued, and that I am more than “just a teacher.” One of the biggest moral killers is not feeling valued as a professional.
- Show that students come first- When I make decisions that impact my classroom I pass it through the “kid filter.” I think about how what I want to do will impact my students. I want to work with educators who are compassionate and really get kids. If I ever say or do anything that shows I’m making a decision that is not in the best interest of my students I want my administrator and coworkers to call me on it.
- Don’t ignore issues- All schools have issues. It is what we do about the issues that really shows our true character. Choosing to ignore issues only makes matters worse. If things are not going right then take the necessary steps to fix the problems right away. Be proactive.
I’m sure there are other things I could have added to this list, but these are the specific things that have been bouncing around my head. What are things you want your administrator or coworkers to know?