In many cases, teachers are hired and put in a classroom (sometimes just days or hours before the first day of school!) and are expected to make the magic happen. If s/he can’t, it is assumed that the teacher has some major deficit. Most times, this assumption is incorrect and reflects unrealistic expectations of what a degree in education or certification actually prepares one for.
In no other profession is one expected to walk into a room of ‘clients’ with varying needs and histories and who are grouped together because they were all were born within the same general timeframe to teach them a general selection of content. In every profession, there are trained and retrained specialists…would you want a pediatrician treating a cardiac patient? And there are built in supports, including continuing education and common practices and processes to consult with other professionals, to help each one have the requisite resources to perform his/her job.
In education, we often use support or development as a punitive measure, perpetuating an unrealistic expectation that teachers should know how to meet each student’s needs without any help or resources. Teachers respond very well to personalized programming in areas that they have recognized as challenges. Providing basic support in the form of coaching, mentoring, resources, the ability for a teacher to ask for help without feeling as though s/he is letting someone down, finding ways to encourage meaningful collaboration and routinely assessing the needs of teachers can truly differentiate your school
Schools often treat teachers in the same authoritative manner that they treat students. Take a look at your policies and practices to find ways that teachers are deliberately engaged as thought partners. Review your staff meetings to see how much air time is given to teachers to present solutions or ideas as opposed to talking at teachers. Do you leverage the natural levels of ownership teachers have for student and school success or are you curtailing it by imposing a lot of rules and overusing accountability measures? Have you asked teachers for their thoughts, suggestions and ideas in any real manner and more importantly, have you taken any action on those suggestions?
Teachers have tremendous knowledge about and power to change schools, but are not always given a chance to participate in the strategic decision-making within the very organizations that they impact through their daily work. Ways to engage teachers include creating teacher-led PLCs, asking for feedback and acting upon it, empowering teachers to create work groups and lead discussions about school challenges. Involving teachers in your hiring process (in a thoughtful and appropriate way!) can be extremely successful for schools.
Teachers can be your BEST ambassadors and will feel ownership for a new colleague’s success if they had a hand in bringing him/her on to the team. The more connected and invested teachers feel in a school’s future, the more inclined they are to stay.
Rajeshri Gandhi-Bhatia, Ed-M, is the founder of School Smarts, which offers expertise in the areas of school leadership and management, talent management skills, and school growth.