Nothing gives a school purpose and energy like an enthusiastic and motivated staff. However, there are so many things that can wear teachers down and this can put a dampener on any prospect of improvement, let along keeping momentum going. As a leader, there are many sound and simple ways for you to keep teachers motivated, enthusiastic and engaged. Here are a few:
- Recognise and celebrate passion. Simply put, nobody gets in to teaching for money or fame. Even if they’re tired, unhappy or bitter, every teacher got in to their job because they were passionate about sharing their love of a subject and about helping young people learn and develop in to wonderful adults. Even at the toughest times it is a good idea to ask your staff to recall their career highs and treasured memories, and demonstrate in your actions that you genuinely want them to have more lessons that they love delivering. The best lessons need to have outstanding learning, and should be enjoyable for students and staff. No student ever got enthused by an unhappy teacher. Even at the moments of greatest frustration with a colleague, remember that they got in to this profession for the right reasons.
- Start with the positive, and enthuse. Make it a rule that you notice the wonderful things that are going on in your school. Ask people to tell you about their best lessons that day, week, or term, and really listen to them. Be receptive and enthuse with your words and body language. Show that you are happy for them. Ask what you could do to help them have more moments like that. (Leaders who do this actually feel better about themselves.)
- Collaborate. Encourage teachers to work together. Offer training in giving positive, useful, constructive advice. Give them the time, space and resources to jointly plan lessons, observe each other and offer supportive feedback. Encourage everyone to share good ideas on staffroom walls, mailing lists and in online forums.
- Give time. Scrutinise every new initiative incredibly carefully, and realise that every five minutes spent on paperwork is five minutes less spent on creating quality learning, assessing student work, and meeting students one-to-one. Every initiative has value, but is it really more important than delivering quality teaching and learning? Is there a way of achieving the same outcomes with a much lower impact on time?
- Be pro-actively receptive. Having an open-door policy is a great start, although many people won’t feel brave enough to come to you unless a problem has got pretty big. Get out and about, engage, listen, offer help. Sit down with middle managers and staff and ask how they are doing.
- Share the bad times. If there’s something that you know isn’t going to go down too well, make sure you’re seen to be suffering at least as much. About to introduce a new requirement in lessons? Make sure senior leaders have to implement it first, and leave it optional for everyone else for a while. Need to ramp up the performance observations? Invite other staff in to observe and constructively support senior leaders’ teaching before you impose your observations on them.
- Recognise the key stress times. Ends of terms, report-writing and exam-marking times are really tough, especially for colleagues with lots of classes. Avoid new initiatives and stresses during these times, and if you can be seen to offer to lend a hand with lessons, planning, and duties at these times it will go down a treat!
- Be flexible. You need to be accommodating when staff ask for time off. If a colleague has an outside interest then be as flexible as you can. A decision to refuse someone a day off for their championship cycle race will only show you don’t care about them as a person, and will plant the seed of the idea that they need to leave in order to grow and develop their interests.
- Develop their CVs. Offer as many opportunities for growth as you can within the school. If there isn’t an opportunity going, you could offer temporary secondments to middle or senior leaderships roles, or you could try arrange a few placements in other schools where they shadow someone in a role they aspire to. Actively develop opportunities for teachers to work on their CVs, and develop a reputation as a school where the enthusiastic teachers can come and grow.
- Give credit. Never miss any opportunity to praise staff at your school and give them credit for the success of the school. Praise them to parents, in newsletters, to the media and to students. Praise individuals quietly behind their backs, and praise them to their faces.
What other examples can you give where leaders have created an enthusiastic school?