Guest post by Danny Steele, principal, Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Alabaster, AL
Teachers are hungry for inspiration. They are committed to their work and see the value in it… but it can still be draining. They want leaders who will refill their bucket. In my experience, these three strategies can go a long way toward energizing teachers:
1. Support them.Over the years, it has become clear to me that support is the number one quality that teachers desire in their administrators. They want to know that when things get challenging with a student or dicey with a parent, someone has their back. When teachers feel supported by their administrators, they feel emboldened and empowered. They become more comfortable taking risks. When they are confident in their safety net, they can dare to be spectacular.
2. Remind them.I believe that every teacher chose this profession because they love kids, and they want to make a difference in their lives. But there are times, even for the most dedicated teacher, when the “calling” can seem more like a “job.” Students can be unruly, parents can be aggravating, mandates can be overbearing, and grading can be overwhelming (not to mention high-stakes tests!). These challenges have the potential to steal the joy from teachers—but they don’t have to! It is important for administrators to help teachers keep these challenges in perspective. Good administrators work hard to keep teachers focused on the best interests of students. They continually remind teachers about the value of their work and about their potential to impact children. This helps teachers remain mindful of their ultimate purpose and hold on to the passion that fuels their fire.
3. Show them. The best administrators not only preach the importance of teachers collaborating; they collaborate themselves. They ask teachers to try new technology, but not without taking any of their own risks. And, they don’t solely encourage teachers to build relationships with students; they connect with kids too! Few teachers are inspired by the type of administrator who talks a big game but never backs it up. Good leaders don’t manage from their office—they lead from the hallway, in the classroom, and in the cafeteria. They are engaged and intentional about setting an example. They are “walking the walk.” These administrators are not simply telling teachers the way, but are modeling it. Teachers will find this type of authenticity inspiring.
When teachers are excited about teaching, their students will be more excited about learning. Good administrators don’t just wish for positive energy in the school; they bring it themselves. They don’t sit back and wait for their teachers to be inspired, but rather work hard to do the inspiring. They realize that they can impact the motivation of their teachers, and they make a difference!
How do you inspire your teachers?
Danny Steele serves as the principal of Thompson Sixth Grade Center in Alabaster, AL, where his passion is building a school culture that values connections with kids, fostering collaboration among teachers, and focusing on raising student achievement. In 2005, Steele was recognized as Alabama’s Assistant Principal of the Year, and in 2016 he was named Alabama’s Secondary Principal of the Year. He is currently writing a book with Todd Whitaker. Follow him on Twitter @SteeleThoughts and check out his blog Steele Thoughts.