Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss. –Lee Iacocca
It’s that time of year again – the beginning of another school year in districts around the country. Countless teachers are preparing classrooms, drafting unit plans, finishing summer reading lists, and spending lots and lots of money on supplies to make sure their students have all that they need to be successful. It may be that school is starting in the next week or the next month, but regardless of the start date, there are teachers who anxiously await the beginning of the year.
We started New Teacher Orientation in my district today. I did not have a part in today’s activities, but as I was working on getting teachers assigned to their classroom cameras, I wondered about the new people who would be joining our district. Are they fresh out of college and eager to begin their careers as educators? Are some coming from another district because their previous employer just didn’t measure up to their needs? Are they moving to the area because of a job transfer for their spouse? New teachers to my district are probably just like new teachers in the thousands of districts across the country. They want to make a difference, they want to be respected, and they want to be recognized for the hard work they do. If you are reading this and you are not an educator, please believe me when I say, being a teacher is HARD work. It is hard emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Teaching is not for the faint-hearted. If you are an educator, you get what I am saying because you know you have felt the exact same way yet you continue to teach.
Last spring as the school year was wrapping up, I saw many articles on social media about teachers who were good at teaching yet they are leaving the profession in large numbers. I would read the articles, agree with some points, and wonder why can’t the powers that be understand what we (educators) need? Yes, we are grown ups with grown up jobs. We are also just like the students we teach. Our students need acceptance, recognition, affirmation, encouragement, and perhaps the thing they need the most is to know that somebody is on their side. When they don’t get those things from us, we lose them, and it’s pretty hard to get them back. Has anyone ever thought that the same can be said of the teachers who are leaving or have already left?
As the name of this blog implies, I am an instructional technology coach. Before that, I was a classroom teacher. I also have the credentials to be an administrator although I have not served in that capacity. If I were an administrator, these are the things I would do for the educators on my campus:
- Acknowledge that they are professionals. They may be new to the world of education, but they are indeed professionals. Treat them as such. If they have an opinion, listen. Let them try something new. This world is where it is because someone (okay, a lot of someones) went out on a limb and tried something new. I am willing to bet that the first day of Ron Clark’s teaching career, he probably did not know that his teaching style would be emulated around the world. Somebody he worked for trusted his professional judgement and look at him now.
- Accept them for who they are. You hired them for a reason. Let them do their job. It may not be the way you would do it, but maybe your way isn’t the best way. If their way doesn’t work, talk about it with them and move on. Isn’t that what we do with our students? We do not grow without failing from time to time. Think about it this way. If they do something their way, and they are successful, both of you look good. If they fail and learn from their failure because of your help, you will still look good because you were a good enough leader to help them through the experience. That brings us to the next point…
- Recognize them for a job well done. Believe you me, I know that schools do not have an endless supply of money to buy gift cards or whatever, but how about standing up in a faculty meeting and giving a few teachers a 100,000 Grand candy bar? A bag doesn’t cost a lot, and the teacher gets recognition in front of their peers. When teachers don’t get recognized for their hard work by the people in charge, they question their worth. I will be the first to tell you. We don’t get immediate feedback from our students. They usually have to grow up before they realize all that teachers have done for them. If you have a staff newsletter, recognize teachers in the newsletter. Show up in their classroom and do a quick thank you via YouTube Live. The point is…Do Something! If you don’t do something long enough, you will be hiring more teachers at the end of the school year.
- Be on their side. No, I do not mean that you are supposed to support your teachers when they are obviously violating the law or the Teacher Code of Ethics, but be on their side when they are coming to work to make a difference for the students and teachers on your campus. When your teachers need you, be there for them. It’s like being a parent. When your children need you, you are there for them regardless. Do the same for your teachers. You want them to be there for the students. Give the professionals in your building the same courtesy. Be there for them. All day. Every day.
Tomorrow afternoon when I see the many faces of our new teachers in my training sessions, I will hope that they have a great year although it may be filled with a few moments of uncertainty. Hopefully, they will know that they are appreciated, wanted, respected, and most importantly, part of our family. I hope the same is true for teachers around the country. We need good teachers and cannot afford for our good ones to keep leaving to do other jobs. Our kids deserve the best. Since our kids deserve the best, why not treat our educators like they are the best?
Until next time…