As I have traveled around the country this year, a few common themes have come out in the wake of the pandemic related to schools. Among them, the varied ways of support teachers need from their school leaders has jumped to the front of the line. Having been lauded as heroes early in the pandemic to now being run down by negativity, teachers need love and support. So how can school leaders, who also have overflowing plates and targets on their backs, best support teachers today. The list could be exhaustive, but here are four I believe to be important and necessary ways to wrap teachers in support.
- Time – I know, this is one that always comes up, as teachers say frequently they don’t have enough time. I am not advocating for creating more time in their schedules, lengthening the school year for more instructional time, or increasing their PD time. No, instead my point here is to simply give teachers more time to complete any asks we have of them. Odds are strong there might be some new initiative aimed at closing any learning gaps. This is going to take teachers time to understand and implement any new strategies. Be patient and give them quality feedback. Some educators may still be struggling with new online platforms and simply need more time and support to catch up to their peers. If there are other tasks that have been asked that could potentially be reduced or eliminated, consider doing that to give them more time to complete the more important ones. Time is a fixed element, but how we choose to use it, and ask others to use it, makes an impactful difference. Be willing to find ways to give teachers more time.
- Listen – one of the most important skills a leader can lean on is the ability to listen. I mean, really listen. Not listen to respond but rather listen to hear, to understand, and to be empathetic. When times get tough, when we are under stress, sometimes the first thing we forget as leaders is to really listen. It is so critical right now to hear exactly what teachers are going through and how they are struggling. Great leaders will be intentional with their time to ensure, even in high pressure situations, that they listen to understand, to empathize, and to provide the support that is needed.
- Be clear and consistent – nobody likes working with the leader who waffles on decisions or changes expectations midstream without good communication. So, don’t be that leader. Know what it is that you are wanting to see and communicate it clearly and repeatedly. Telling someone something one time does not constitute being clear with your expectations.
- Have their backs – look through any teacher or school leader Facebook group and you’ll find frequent questions about student behaviors. Social media feeds are filled with posts about legislative bills aimed at ‘monitoring’ teachers in the classroom or ensuring their daily lesson plans meet with every parent’s approval. More and more students are coming to school under prepared and teachers are becoming more and more demoralized. Leaders who will put a hand down to lift their teachers up and who have their backs are what so many teachers are asking for right now. I’m not saying they are always right, sometimes you need to have a private conversation with employees. But, facing students, the public, and the press – let’s make sure we have our teacher’s backs. They need this support most of all.
Again, I think this list could be considerably longer. These were the four that were on my mind and I felt the need to share.
Have a #RoadToAwesome week