Support Teachers Year-round

Each May millions across the country celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week by thanking the teachers in their lives. But for principals, helping their teachers goes beyond a day, week, or even month. Schools become great when teachers are supported each and every day. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, here are three tips from NAESP resources that can help principals support their teachers throughout the year:

Listen to your teachers

When educating kids is a teacher’s priority, it’s easy to forget how much principals can learn from their own teachers. In “Teacher Voice: Problem or Potential,” Russell Quaglia and Lisa Lande explain how important it is for principals to give their teachers “voice,” and to carefully listen. This is more of an issue that many suspect, with as much as 47 percent of teachers feeling they don’t have a voice at their school. Fortunately, they offer advice on how principals can listen better:

  • Get out of your office. Don’t wait for teachers to come to you with ideas;
  • Seek out opinions from all your staff, not just the ones who are easiest to hear;
  • Take notes on what is being said. Do not rely solely on your memory. This also demonstrates to others that you are truly listening; and
  • Build relationships. By putting in the time necessary to make sure everyone is heard.

Look beyond the classroom

In “The Main Points of Teacher Evaluation,” John and Sheila Eller make the case that teacher evaluation represents a key opportunity for teacher growth. But principals can do more than just offer feedback through classroom observations. They argue that looking beyond classroom instruction will not only offer a fuller picture of what a teacher does, it will encourage him or her to excel in areas they are passionate about:

When teachers are encouraged to look at information sources other than just their classroom performance, they can find exciting areas of growth. For example, a teacher we know had a significant role out-side of the classroom in providing professional development to other teachers. Her principal included an observation of her conducting a professional development session in her supervision process. The teacher received feedback for the first time in this area.

As a result of this feedback, she selected a professional growth goal in the area of conducting professional development sessions. This teacher was very motivated to grow in this area. The skills she gained helped her do a better job in conducting work-shops, and she also used what she learned back in her classroom to enhance her teaching. If she had not been encouraged to look at the alternative data source of her outside professional development as a part of the supervision process, she may never have had the chance to grow in this area.

Encourage teachers to help each other

In his interview on NAESP Radio, author and educator Todd Whitaker shared insights on how to help new teachers thrive, which equally applies to all teachers. Often, the best resource teachers have to support their work is each other:

“One of the things you always want to start off with—even if you don’t have any new teachers, but especially if you do—is what I call a mutual exchange. Have teachers go into each other’s classrooms. Eventually we can build to a point where we just go into a classroom to observe a specific thing, but start with a mutual exchange. What happens when teachers go into each other’s classrooms in a non-evaluative, non-judgmental way, is all the teachers become like the best teachers. Because no one is going to steal worse ideas.”

These are only a few ways principals can #ThankaTeacher. You can visit the National Principals Resource Center for more articles and tools to support your teachers. The PTA’s website also has great Teacher Appreciation Week resources, including thank-you cards, appreciations certificates, and more.