Today's guest post is written by Brandon Blom who is an amazing educator and Principal at Stoneridge Elementary School in California.
At the start of every school year I seem to read a lot of articles about why there is a teacher shortage or why the teacher pipeline is drying up. If you have been following the news lately you have seen a string of stories about teacher shortages in states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and California, just to name a few. I also have read articles about how in the public’s view respect for teachers has gone down over the years. All of these articles make me think one thing: Kids deserve teachers who are respected and appreciated.
I would love to see our teachers better taken care of at the federal, state and even district levels. As a principal I am not in a position to change all of these issues, but I do feel as educational leaders there are things we can do to help show our teachers in a positive light, give them the respect they deserve, invest in them, and start changing the culture around education.
Our Stoneridge Elementary School teachers the day before school started.
Here are some things we do at my school to help create a culture that shows teachers we care:
-Give them time. Sounds simple but giving teachers time to plan and collaborate is so important.
- Give them the resources they need. I know budgets are tight but do whatever you can to give them the resources they need. If that means going to your PTC and asking for more money for their classrooms, helping write grants, helping them get started with DonorsChoose or other charity sites, do you best to get them what they need.
- Make Professional Development a priority in your budget. Once again I know budgets are tight but teachers should not have to pay for their own PD. Our teachers know we do not have an unlimited budget so we do our best to spend money wisely. At the same time I make sure investing in them is a priority at our school.
- Provide them with good PD yourself. If we are talking about respecting teachers, we need to make sure that when we have staff meetings or PD days, their time is respected. We need to show them that we are learning together and providing them with PD that is meaningful. They need to leave the meetings more enthusiastic about teaching than before they came.
- Respect their time. If you say your staff meeting is an hour, then end on time whether you are finished or not. Also if a meeting is unnecessary, cancel it! Don’t have it just to have it.
- Always end meetings with celebrations! It’s a chance to recognize each other for the great things going on around campus and in their personal lives.
- One of the fun things I do is buy each staff member their favorite Starbuck’s drink and deliver it to their classroom. Teachers love getting their drink and it gives me an opportunity to thank them for their work in front of their students.
- Get together outside of school. We try to always go out as a staff after Back to School Night or Open House or just get together for a Happy Hour every once in awhile so we can connect outside of school.
- Provide food at staff meetings. We provide food at every meeting. It might just be bags of popcorn and some grapes (and usually something sweet) but teachers appreciate being fed after a day of teaching.
- Give them a card or personalized message before the school year starts thanking them for what they do. This year all of my teachers are on Voxer with me so I sent each of them a message just letting them know I appreciate what they do and I am looking forward to the school year with them.
- Meet with them one on one end of the year to check in and see how the year went. The first question I always ask is how is your family so they know what is truly most important before we start talking business.
- Be available. I am constantly walking around campus to see how I can help. I also go by every grade level during Professional Learning Community time to ask what they need from me.
- Have fun and dance! We do a staff dance at the talent show every year. It is a great team building activity for the staff, and students and parents love it! At first you might have some teachers resist but if you lead the way, enough will follow that it will be worth it. Here is our dance from two years ago:
-Tell them to go home. Our teachers work really hard and want to do what is best for students but sometimes when they are there late, they need someone to remind them to go home and be with their family.
-Bring passion, energy and new ideas all the time. Teachers want someone who loves their job as much as they do.
- Know your students. Teachers care deeply about their students. Teachers love when we know our students. In the past I have given a prize of me teaching their class for different activities like which class donated the most money or which teacher won a certain competition. This year I am trying something new: I am going to sub each class for at least an hour. That way I can see what the students are like in the classroom, give the teachers a tiny break, and also remember just how challenging and rewarding it is to be a teacher.
I have listed a lot of ways principals can take care of their teachers to show they respect and appreciate them. I am a positive person and obviously do my best to take care of our teachers but there a few things that taking care of teachers does not mean:
- It does not mean saying good job or praising all the time. There is a lot of research and articles against praising students by saying good job and the same goes for teachers. This was an adjustment for some of my teachers as they wanted to hear me say good job all the time. Instead, I praise their hard work and I am specific about feedback.
- It does not mean agreeing on everything. Like many staffs we disagree on items, and that is a good thing since a lot of time disagreement leads to better solutions for our school and students. As long as it stays respectful we understand we are not always going to agree.
-It does not mean to holdback feedback if it is needed. If there is something that you see that will help a child learn, say something. Teachers need to hear how they can get better.
- It does not mean everything is great all the time. We have to constantly look at what we are doing and how we can improve.
Teaching is not easy and the teacher’s role seems to expand every year. I would love to hear how other educational leaders are doing their part to take care of our teachers. I know there are ways I can still improve and take care of them even more. If we take time to appreciate our teachers it will go a long way to making sure our school culture is awesome for our students. Kids deserve a positive place where both students and adults are happy to come and learn.