Strong leadership in K-12 education is crucial. It became more apparent when the pandemic started, which forced school leaders to find a better approach to retaining and empowering their teachers.
With that said, this article details simple yet effective ways K-12 leaders can provide support to their teachers in all situations.
Maintain clear communication
Establishing an effective communication line is necessary for several reasons. One is that it helps boost the morale, productivity, and satisfaction of the school staff. As a result, it helps create a positive and thriving working environment.
Here are some tips that can help K-12 leaders maintain good communication with teachers:
- Have an in-person talk with them in their classroom instead of your office. It shows them that you respect their time and that their voices matter to you. Ensure removing distractions (i.e., put your phone in silent mode).
- Provide teachers with the best resources to give their feedback, concerns, and suggestions in a constructive manner. Some examples are anonymous surveys, a single-page sheet with your questions, and weekly email communication.
- Take advantage of modern technology to keep teachers and other school personnel updated. Google Hangouts, Slack, and Remind are some of the best messaging apps for principals and teachers.
Focus on character strengths
Capitalizing on teachers’ strengths seems obvious. However, the traditional management approach has always focused only on employees’ weaknesses to improve performance.
According to a Gallup study, people who use their strengths daily are three times more likely to report a high quality of life and six times more engaged at work. In addition, they are more productive and less likely to quit.
Some of the ways school administrators like you can encourage teachers to grow in their careers using the strengths-based approach might be by getting an expert strengths-based development coach to help teachers determine what they are naturally good at. Also, setting a good example by sharing your own strengths with your teaching staff and emphasizing that it is okay to have limitations is a great way to show your colleagues that you understand their daily responsibilities. You can further this by creating a rewards system and publicly acknowledging their achievements and contributions.
Promote stronger collaboration
Creating a collaborative environment for teachers is no simple task. However, it offers benefits that can positively impact all aspects of the school.
One of those benefits is working together to brainstorm creative and effective solutions for existing or potential issues in the school. Another great benefit of collaboration is that teachers can improve their teaching practices, which ultimately impacts the students.
Collaboration between school administration and teachers can take different forms. For instance, principals can support teachers by providing opportunities for pursuing certifications and advanced degrees, such as a doctoral degree in education (Ed.D.).
Rockhurst University, a top-ranked university, offers a doctoral degree in education. To answer the question: “What can you do with a doctorate in education?” Rockhurst University can help students understand how to lead teaching staff, change policy, and nurture the younger generation. School administrators can also set up a mentorship and peer support program for newer teachers.
Provide constructive and informed feedback
Intentional and impactful feedback can help teachers build confidence and further develop their craft. There are different ways K-12 leaders can do this, such as through classroom observations, individualized sessions, and instructional rounds.
When providing informed feedback to teachers, K-12 leaders should know what constructive criticism is and how to use it. In order to maintain open communication chains between colleagues, discussing and agreeing on the specific definition of “constructive and respectful feedback” is essential. You would not want to leave any room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Similarly, praising your teachers for their performance is good, but make sure you also provide them with actionable feedback. Not doing this could cause teachers to feel stressed and uncertain about their abilities.
Language and communication
Language is key; be mindful of the language you use. Avoid using words such as “should,” which could make teachers less receptive to your feedback. Use open-ended questions for a more meaningful conversation with your teachers. Remember: Like any other employee, teachers want to feel heard and be able to share their opinions.
Effective listening, also called active listening, is probably one of the most crucial communication skills. It goes beyond simply hearing the person’s words. It seeks to understand the emotions, intent, and meaning behind every word.
When school administrators take the time and effort to listen to their teaching staff, they can use the valuable insights they gather to come up with better solutions and policies. They can also use them to improve school culture and avoid teacher burnout.
However, listening effectively can be difficult to put into practice. With that said, here are a few things you can consider when communicating with your teaching staff:
Welcoming but professional
Initiate an open-door policy where teachers are welcome to discuss concerns, ideas, and suggestions. This kind of policy helps improve collaboration and build mutual respect between administrators and teachers. Avoid overcommunication (i.e., being available to talk the whole day or during weekends).
Pay attention to your non-verbal cues—eye contact, posture, facial expressions, and gestures. That means using open and non-threatening body language: open hands with palms facing up, leaning in, and nodding or tilting your head at key junctures, to name a few.
Ask relevant and open-ended questions to encourage longer and more thought-out responses.
Use paraphrasing to clarify certain statements and show the other person how well you understand his/her ideas. Use responses such as “Tell me more about it” or “I understand” to show you are actively listening.
How K-12 leaders can support teachers: key takeaways
K-12 leaders are in the best position to create an environment where teachers feel empowered, respected, and supported. They can achieve this in many ways; focusing on the teachers’ strengths, fostering open communication, providing actionable feedback, and creating a collaborative environment. When teachers feel valued by leadership, they are more likely to stay in the long term and become more motivated to perform well.