Part 1 of our blog on Supporting Teachers Through the Season (https://possip.com/supporting-teachers/) provided some tips for school leaders to implement if you have overwhelmed teachers know that supporting teachers matters. We know that prioritizing teacher morale and sustainability is essential to overall school success. Dysregulated adults can never create regulated children. School leaders can focus on supporting teachers in order to positively impact academic outcomes on school campuses. If done effectively, teachers will improve student’s academic, emotional, and developmental needs to succeed.
Here are a few ways to focus on supporting teachers who are struggling in different ways:
Situation 2: Supporting Teachers Struggling with Pedagogy or Classroom Management
Differentiated Coaching: Individualized Development Plans (IDPs)
Creating an Individualized Development Plan for each teacher is an effective method to see strong improvement in specific skill areas that require growth. Systems of differentiated coaching are great for supporting teachers who are struggling in their classrooms, along with supporting your high performers. Using a differentiated coaching model called Individualized Development Plans (IDP) helps teachers reach success in the classroom faster. Having IDPs not only helps teachers focus on specific individualized areas they need to work on, but it clarifies the administrator/coach’s role in the support plan. Having teachers understand what support they will be getting and the rationale behind the support in relation to their goals is key to them reaching success as an educator. If you’d like a template of how to create an Individualized Development Plan for your teacher, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having a strong teacher mentor program on campus can make all the difference for new or struggling teachers. Having a mentor creates an informal support system for teachers and allows them to ask for advice on things they may not want to come to the administrators about. This also allows strong teachers to take on a leadership role on campus. I refer to this idea of a “companion plant” presented in this article about mentor teachers and the importance of them: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/marigolds/
Model or co-observations
Sometimes teachers just need to see the skills that they are struggling with done well to really grasp it. An administrator could model the skill in the teacher’s classroom as a support to the teacher. If that option isn’t ideal, an administrator or coach could do campus co-observations to look for one skill being utilized. Having a walk-through tool or note catcher for the teacher on the things you want them to be looking for is important for facilitating co-observations.
Sponsoring outside courses or PD Sessions
If teachers are struggling with a skill, sponsoring them to take a community college or online course might be helpful. You can also refer them to online content like Khan Academy.
Situation 3: Supporting Many Teachers Struggling on Staff
Surprise Teacher Appreciation Month
During difficult times of the year, you may need to focus on supporting teachers school wide to stay positive or be at their best. If you notice this, try throwing together a surprise “teacher appreciation month” for a month other than May. Still to this day, I think teachers deserve more than one appreciation month anyways. Planning for this in October, November, or another difficult month for teachers is a great campus-wide “pick-me-up.” You can get parents on board to help or local businesses and community members to donate items. This shows you appreciate your teachers and it will helps spread positivity in small ways throughout the month.
Start Weekly Shout-outs in Various Forms
Everyone benefits from sharing and hearing a positive “shout-out” or affirmation. If you don’t already have multiple ways to allow teachers to share these positive messages to other staff members, think about how you can add this into your staff culture. Some ideas include a weekly “shout-out trophy” where teachers start out a staff meeting or huddle by giving another staff member a shout-out for something good that happened that week. You can also ask teachers to email you shout-outs throughout the week to add into your weekly staff memo. Another idea is to have a physical shout-out bulletin board where teachers can hand write notes publicly. Being intentional about acknowledging all the good things that are happening on campus can shift mindsets for teachers in big ways.
PD on self care or teacher SEL
Students aren’t the only ones who need training on SEL skills or how to practice self-care. I know I need reminders and tips just as much as the middle schoolers I worked with. Being able to either give a PD on building positive social-emotional skills as a teacher or finding an external presenter to teach your staff about SEL or self care strategies can make a big impact on your staff mental and emotional well-being. Possip provides PD sessions on a school-based need, so reach out if having a PD like this on your campus is something that interests you.
- Plan a staff event instead of PD or formal staff meeting
Finding ways to just enjoy other staff members in an informal way is important to promoting positivity and building staff relationships. This could look like planning fun team building sessions, hosting happy hours, or creating a “sunshine committee” to plan regular social events for the staff. Having some downtime can rejuvenate and refresh your staff to get off the “struggle bus.”
Situation 4: Supporting Teachers Struggling “Under the Radar”
Some teachers, usually your top-performing teachers, may struggle under the radar and begin to feel a lack of investment in the school. Since these classrooms are academically and culturally strong, it’s sometimes hard to notice when high performers are struggling. Here are some tips for supporting teachers who struggle under the radar:
- Ask questions one-on-one and offer individualized support if you notice:
- Increase in behavioral referrals
- Lack of participation in meetings
- Late to meetings
- Decrease in collaboration
Set open office hours
Have an open door policy and set office hours to remind staff you are there for them. Sometimes just giving a genuine invitation to talk can be a support to teachers.
Targeted praise and encouragement
Teachers may feel like they are not doing a good job even though they are! Remind them of why they are high-performing in your eyes and show appreciation for their strengths.
- Help teachers create work-life boundaries and hold them accountable to it
Get to know what your teachers like to do with their free time that brings them joy and hold them accountable to doing that by asking questions and having regular check-ins about how their work-life balance is going.
Increasing investment through learning a new skill or taking on a new leadership opportunity
If the teacher is losing investment, try giving him or her something new to learn about. It could be learning about a new instructional practice or giving them a new leadership opportunity on campus.
Supporting Teachers over Holiday Breaks
Keeping teachers engaged and happy over breaks is crucial. Breaks can be a time when struggling teachers look into other job options. Here are some ways to do this over breaks:
- Connecting staff socially – This could be an optional happy hour, dinner, or get-together that your sunshine committee plans over the break. Having social events can help teachers stay connected to each other and create a strong sense of belonging.
- Intentional messaging over break- Send a scheduled shout-out email mid-way through break to your staff to increase positivity over break. If you are a texter, send texts to teachers to let them know that you’re thankful for them. Handwritten appreciation snail mail is a great mid-break surprise to teacher’s home as a mid break appreciation gesture.
- Appreciation event right before break- Send teachers off feeling positive and appreciated. They’ll leave for break feeling great about working at your school!
- Classroom cleaning/organization help- This is especially helpful for first year teachers. It could be helping them organize their desk, files, or a bookshelf, or just help clean the room. It helps teachers leave for break feeling in more calm and organized in their room. This tip will also boost morale with a clean slate coming back from break in their welcoming space.
- Staff book club- This could be for teachers who want some extra PD over break. It helps them stay connected with the school and get some good reading in.
If you need more tips on this topic or want to brainstorm any challenges you have around a struggling teacher, please email me at Amanda@possipit.com.