Supporting teachers matters. As we head into the holiday season, Possip’s internal research shows that the Thanksgiving holiday can be the start of a high season of teacher turnover and attrition. Further, esearch shows that almost 50% of teachers leave the profession in their first 5 years. http://www.nea.org/tools/17054.htm The good news is there are things schools can do – to support all teachers – but particularly struggling teachers.
Teachers have so many roles and responsibilities. They are an advocate, parent, coach, mentor, entertainer – daily. As former teachers we know. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. When teachers struggle, the best thing for principals and school leaders to do is supporting teachers.
Teachers need a principal who has high expectations and who knows how to adapt when they are struggling. A principal who is great at supporting teachers can increase their morale, create a positive school environment, and foster respect and sustainability.
Below are some ideas on supporting teachers who are feeling overwhelmed. And join us for our 15-minute Power Webinar this Thursday on Supporting Teachers. It is at 4pm CST. You will learn even more tips! https://possip.com/possip-events-and-webinars/
Supporting Teachers Who Are Feeling Overwhelmed
Pick me up note or gift
As the leader of the school, handwritten notes of praise encouragement show empathy and care. When observing or doing a walk-by, leave your teacher a purely positive handwritten note.
Additionally, you can survey your teachers to learn their favorite snack/starbucks order/school supply. With that info you can leave a meaningful gift. This is a great idea for a struggling teacher who may just need a quick “pick-me-up.”
Set small goals and celebrate
If a teacher is feeling overwhelmed with their to-do list or action steps, work to create “bite-sized” goals. These are goals that are easily met. Then, celebrate those successes frequently. They may need help focusing on the positive things they can do makes a big difference.
Professional Development or Personal Day
Grant teachers a “Planning Day” with a substitute. This shows you value teachers and their time. One school in the Possip community found a way to give each teacher a schedule that included a personal day. They could use this day for whatever their needs were.
Teachers also need a reminder of self care and sustainability. This can help. If getting a substitute isn’t an option, consider who else in the leadership team can help.
Refer teachers to free counseling sessions (if applicable)
Sometimes supporting teachers is about things outside of the classroom. If you think counseling could benefit teachers, make sure they know what is covered in insurance. For example, district insurance may have free or covered counseling sessions. Often struggling teachers are newer to the profession. These teachers are often younger and less experienced. They may not fully understand what is included in their benefits. Help them check in with your district HR representative to see what mental health options are available to teachers.
Individualized deadlines or extensions
Life circumstances can make deadlines difficult for teachers. If you have a teacher who always meets deadlines but is suddenly struggling, be flexible and provide individualized deadlines. As we often discuss in education, fair does not mean equal. So at times teachers need different accommodations just like students.
Daily mood meter check in and weekly debrief
If you have a teacher who is struggling emotionally or can’t identify stress triggers, work on some social-emotional skills together. Create a weekly chart for the teacher to track their mood every day. A good example of a mood tracker is the Mood Meter by Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence (http://ei.yale.edu/mood-meter-overview/). On Fridays, have a weekly debrief with the teacher to analyze their emotions during the week and provide tips on how to manage specific triggers. This will not only help the teacher feel supported by you, but also increase emotional regulation in the long term. Here is an example of what it could look like:
It’s always good to remember that the principal is really the “emotional thermometer” on the campus. Make sure to be on the lookout frequently for ways you can support struggling staff. 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.
To learn more about supporting struggling teachers, attend our Power Session on November 14th at 4pm CST. There will be tips on the following situations:
#1 Situation: Supporting Teachers Struggling with Pedagogy or Classroom Management
#2 Situation: Supporting Many Teachers Struggling on Staff
#3 Situation: Supporting Teachers Succeeding in the Classroom but Struggling Emotionally