Three Ways to Show Teachers Your Support
April 2016, Volume 39, Issue 8
Strong teachers are essential to creating and sustaining vibrant learning communities. Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6, is not only a great time for principals to show their thanks to teachers, but also a reminder to find ways to support teachers throughout the year. Here are a few ideas.
1. Foster Teacher Voices
Teachers want to speak openly about opinions and ideas in an environment of trust, collaboration and responsibility. But nearly half of teachers say they don’t have a voice in decisions at their school, according to the Teacher Voice Report 2010—2014.
Russell J. Quaglia and Lisa L Lande explain in “Teacher Voice: Problem or Potential?” that in fact, teachers who feel comfortable expressing honest opinions and concerns are four times more likely to be excited about their careers in education. And teachers who have a voice in school decisions are four times more likely to believe they can make a difference, and three times as likely to encourage students to become leaders, according to Quaglia and Lande.
How can principals use this information to become better school leaders? Quaglia and Lande suggest numerous strategies:
- Make a conscious effort to seek out teachers’ opinions.
- Avoid listening only to a few teachers. Good leaders should seek out voices that tend to be missing and invite those into the conversation.
- Trust your teachers and be ready to expand your comfort zone. You may be surprised at their support and collaboration.
- Resist dismissing teacher opinions you disagree with or don’t fully understand. Ask questions to learn why teachers feel a certain way. Teachers need to have confidence in expressing their ideas and opinions in a safe environment, the authors say.
Finally, lead in partnership with your teachers. Provide the support and resources to pursue their own leadership roles. Your presence and work side-by-side with them will show your support.
2. Target Professional Learning
Another way to show teachers your support: Make a commitment to provide more useful professional learning that targets teachers’ needs. Empower teachers to guide their own training, based on student data when possible.
Survey your teachers to find out their ideas for professional learning. Consider which formats best suit your school culture: speakers, webinars, book studies, small groups, Edcamps, or regional or national conferences.
Be sure to offer follow-up support. Look for implementation of new strategies. Revisit key topics often to keep interest high. Augment teachers’ learning with individual conversations, classroom observations, and grade-level meetings.
3. Recognize Accomplishments
Principals can show appreciation for teachers every day. But here are a few creative ideas for lauding teachers during this special week:
- Send handwritten notes to each teacher, highlighting a specific accomplishment or the value they bring to students and your school.
- Make a creative, colorful postcard to share with teachers and write your own personal messages.
- Get students involved. Hold a surprise reception for teachers, provide treats, or recognize teachers during class.
- Use social media, if appropriate, to highlight or praise good teaching. Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher.
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