12 Oct How Administrators Can Support Teachers to Improve School Culture
Student success can be measured by many factors—the quality of your facilities, services, and even leadership. But when it comes to student success, a teacher is estimated to have about 2.5 times the impact of any of these other factors.
So that means it’s time to invest in our teachers!
When teachers feel genuinely supported, positive school culture and high student achievement can be a reality. But how administrators can support teachers involves more than quick check-ins. Let’s jump into some tips and strategies to support the teachers at your school.
Importance of Teacher Administrator Relationship
Administrators can make or break school culture
When administrators don’t support teachers, school culture crumbles. When a principal fails to recognize how critical collaboration is for success, trust is lost. And when trust is lost within a school environment, outstanding educators might question themselves, maybe even enough to quit, but ultimately, students will suffer.
When the staff doesn’t feel safe or supported, teachers become tense and fearful. And of course, students feel it. During a pandemic, that is the last thing we need our students to feel more of. So how can we help our teachers so they can be the best for our students?
How Administrators Can Support Teachers
Ways to Support Teachers
Administrative support for teachers is more critical now than ever. They’re there to help the students, and you’re there to support them!
How can administrators empower teachers?
Respect Teachers’ Time
Teachers are required to create engaging lessons, design their materials, grade student work, contact parents, provide extra help, the list goes on. And these are just basic expectations.
As an administrator, what can you do to support them? For one, actions that take time away from them is likely not helpful. And granted, now, during a pandemic, your teachers may have extra free time on their hands. Of course, the opposite could also be true. Becoming highly conscious of this isn’t just a kind gesture, but could boost productivity.
Here are some ideas for you to do just that.
1. Limit Meetings
Meetings can be overkill. Whether we’re chatting via Zoom or in-person, unnecessary meetings can eat up all of your time and everyone else’s. Meetings often run over the time allowed, some meetings have staff in attendance who don’t need to be there, and last-minute meetings can really throw a teacher’s schedule off, creating added stress.
Reduce the time your teachers spend in meetings. If it can be an email, let it be one. Can you limit weekly meetings to every other week? Can you set a new protocol that your meetings always end on time no matter where you are in the discussion?
2. Limit instruction interruptions
I remember when I was in school, I would just be getting the hang of an idea, and we would get interrupted by a P.A. announcement or sometimes an in-person visit. The good thing about teaching online is that this is likely not happening anymore, but when your classrooms do open back up, be mindful of this. Protect instructional time!
3. Encourage unstructured time
Again, a pandemic has altered this. And hopefully, for some, a lot more unstructured time is available. But this can’t be stressed enough. Teachers need time to think and apply what they know, in order to create incredible lessons. They need time to do what you hired them to do— they need you to trust them!
Examine how you give support
The one size fits all approach will be snug on some and oversized on others. Knowing your teachers’ strengths and weaknesses is helpful to provide tailored support, rather than general.
1. Understand how they work
While some teachers might benefit from turning in lesson plans or using templates, others may not, and that should be okay! Having the freedom and flexibility to work to their strengths fosters effective and nontoxic school culture, ultimately empowering them to be more for their students.
2. Addressing Issues
It’s reasonably demeaning to address the problems of a few with lectures or meetings to scold everyone. This likely isn’t done at your school, but worth bringing up just in case. Staff can begin to get paranoid, wondering if they were the ones who did something wrong, and their work will likely suffer for it mainly because they won’t feel trusted. Going to the teacher privately instead, is one way around this.
3. Give them specific feedback
Take the time to celebrate their successes and provide positive feedback where appropriate. Providing them with constructive feedback that allows them to evolve rather than only address problems in staff meetings, helps sustains the positive school culture you have built.
4. Ask them what they need
No, really. Ask them what they need to improve. Finding out what’s working in the classroom and what isn’t is a great way to stay in tune with their needs and become aware of any issues before ahead of time. Resentment and unwanted energy can be avoided.
Ask for Feedback
This can genuinely empower your teachers.
1. Seek their professional input!
You and your team are the ones making and facing critical decisions for your school. Policies, courses, curriculum materials, technology, all of it! It’s stressful! Lean on your teaching staff! Not to overload them with extra work, but in a way that can empower them. To benefit both staff and your students, having teachers involved in these decisions makes sense. They’re the ones in the classrooms, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Consistent collaboration on critical decisions strengthens administrator and teacher relationships.
Creating and fostering an environment where teachers can give feedback on their experience is vital. This two-way street works as an ego check for those at the top but is so much more than that. The level of accountability that comes with this can only strengthen trust and respect. Two ingredients needed to sustain a school culture.
Ask yourself these questions:
When was the last time you asked your teachers to give you feedback?
If a new program you pushed wasn’t working, would you stop and reassess? Or would you keep it going?
If a new program that would put extra strain on teachers (especially now, during the pandemic), but would make the school look fantastic, would you still force it through?
Look for Leaders
Support your teachers by becoming aware of their strengths, interests, and talents. If you see growth in a certain area, in a certain teacher, empower them with a leadership role.
Help them avoid burnout
Share the workload. Compassion fatigue is real for you and your staff. And any extra responsibilities should be met with gratitude from you but also realistic expectations. This is especially important during the pandemic. Our teachers are working with children dealing with their hardships and even traumas during this time. Teachers are their support system. How are we supporting that system? Manageable tasks, fewer meetings, and employing these tips for continued support can help limit burnout.
Hosting professional development days are a cold glass of water. Building relationships with school staff starts with acknowledging that you’re willing to invest in every one of them. That part of your job is to find and sharpen their strengths to become the best educators for these students. The ways principals can motivate teachers are endless. You can schedule professional development days or find opportunities for relevant workshops or even conferences to attend to better their position. Offering them travel assistance is a great way to show your willingness to invest in them.
Tips for Effective Communication
How can administrators support teachers during distance learning?
Encourage your teachers to create a sense of normalcy for their students by creating a sense of normalcy for your teachers.
The best way to foster normalcy with your staff during this uncertain time is to be extremely aware of your communication—its style and its frequency. Clear, positive messages that do not overwhelm an already overwhelmed staff are, of course, the way to go.
So…how do you do it?
Less is more
If you can, avoid information overload. Re-read that email you’re about to send. Is it in any way overwhelming?
We’re all experiencing the adverse effects of this time. Higher levels of anxiety and trauma are present for both staff and students.
Trying to learn and teach on an unfamiliar platform during such emotional tension, isn’t easy.
So ask yourself if every email is beneficial. If it’s just listing out “to-do’s” and concerns all day, you might change your approach.
We want to make sure everyone is doing the right thing all the time. We care about our students. And too much is on the line. But if our teachers are always stressed and stretched too thin, student achievement will suffer.
Effective communication through check-ins
Check-ins with teachers aren’t just about seeing how they’re doing emotionally. They’re also to see how your policies are affecting their classroom experience. Regular check-ins to see what’s working in their virtual (or blended) classrooms and what’s not working, is true active listening. It’s a way to keep communication open and allows teachers to feel supported.
Listen to their anxieties, concerns, and make changes when necessary. Likely, you’ll be changing and evolving together and regularly.
This creates transparency and builds trust, making an isolating and uncertain time a little easier.
Clear and kind communication, always.
Each email, call, video chat, or text can be optimized for kindness. Principals and administrators can support teachers through distance learning by sending consistently clear and positive words to their teachers. Words of encouragement and gratitude remind teachers their efforts are appreciated and strengthen that level of trust.
The goal of successful distance learning isn’t to replicate the typical school day, but instead to keep students connected to their school and education. And this kind of support is equally essential for teachers.
Keep them connected by keeping communication lines as clear, as open, and as kind as possible.