Idea 1: Build quality relationships with your faculty, especially with teachers new to your school. When an Administrator walks into a classroom -- it can be scary, especially for new teachers. Change that. Go into classrooms so often that you dropping into the room for 5 minutes to see what students and teachers are up to is the norm. Send a quick two sentence email to the teacher highlighting something good that you saw. Trust me, if you know them, if they feel like you are on their side, they will not only work harder, they will be inspired, and the entire school community will reap the dividends. And then when it comes time to help a teacher improve their practice, to have tough talks, -- it will come from someone they trust. Invite your new teachers to lunch or coffee. Make them feel seen, heard and valued.
Idea 2: Listen. I think sometimes our structure and organization, which is meant to make schools efficient builds walls between teachers and Administrators. In our quest to organize, we lose personal connections. Next year, maybe try holding office hours. Set aside two hours a week when you will be in your office and teachers can drop by without an appointment to discuss concerns or questions, to ask for guidance or input. Let your teachers know unequivocally that you are there -- ready to listen and to problem solve.
Idea 3: Go virtual. Technology is your friend. Ditch the long faculty meetings. When you need to give teachers information, opt for a video or digital format that allows teachers to access this information on their own time. Set a deadline -- have them fill in a Google Doc to report that they have in fact attended the virtual meeting. Our Administrative team, has been experimenting with this method. It allows us to keep our faculty meetings short and sweet. Time is literally one of a teacher’s most important resources. Use the tech to give us flexibility and the freedom to manage our time.
Idea 4: Think beyond CTs. Encourage teachers to build PLN - Personal Learning Networks that extend well beyond their collaborative learning teams. I believe in Collaborative Teams, but I sometimes think that the best collaboration occurs across schools, discipline areas, and grade levels. Encourage teachers to reach beyond their CT for ideas and inspiration. This can be done in so many ways. Twitter is full of daily collaboration; perhaps, encourage teachers to leap into twitter by challenging them to create a Twitter account and to follow 100 educators by the end of the summer. Challenge teachers to participate in a Twitter #slowchat over the summer as a school, posing a thoughtful question each week. Encourage a week of classroom visits during which teachers go into one another’s classrooms to see what’s happening without any evaluative component or judgement. All it takes is a little spark from another person or department for great collaboration to happen.
Idea 5: Resist the temptation to put last year’s standardized test scores on the screen -- whether their good or bad - when you welcome teachers into your building. When you do that, you send a very strong signal that those scores are what matter the most, when you and I both know that while the scores have value, they are only one piece of the puzzle. So why not this year instead of test scores use images from the past year of students engaged in collaboration and communication? Why not show an image of the field trip students took to the Capitol Building? Why not show an image of students and teachers using Project Based Learning? Why not show an image of students involved in an inquiry lesson as they look at WWII artifacts? Why not show an image of students visiting the Makerspace to build and create? Let your teachers know that we are focused on the whole child and that we must use a variety of measures to track student progress.
In one week, that bell will ring for the final time and summer will begin. As teachers rethink our practice in the hopes of continuing to improve and grow, I hope that our leaders will reflect on theirs as well.
Rest assured, the kids will arrive in September. They just keep coming and that’s what makes this job the best job on the planet. There are always more students to teach, to help, to motivate and ultimately if we all do our jobs right -- students to celebrate.
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