School leaders are expected to be the driving force in education, inspiring their teams to give students their best. However, they face roadblocks as they enter their school buildings each day.
Unfortunately, school leaders, teachers, and staff often deal with the same problems:
Despite all these difficulties, school leaders can find effective ways to solve problems and build thriving school communities. Effective school leadership is not limited by school system constraints such as budget, school size, student population, or even the type of school (public, private, charter).
Impactful school leaders realize they are nothing without their staff. They do not work in isolation but rely on the passion and commitment of their educators to improve learning for all students.
Most teachers start their careers with a genuine desire to help children learn and succeed academically and socially, so they often stay in teaching careers. However, when working conditions are negative, it shutters this spirit, causing frustration and burnout among teachers who might otherwise be strong advocates for change.
School leaders must recognize what school conditions are driving teachers away. They can build a learning environment that empowers teachers, inspires them to want to continue teaching, and pushes them to be the best they can be as educators. This takes time and commitment.
In addition, communication between teachers and school leaders is essential. Communication must be both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal communication occurs when educators interact with each other across grade levels and subject areas. This sharing of best practices helps the overall skill level of the teaching staff and builds a team that supports one another during crunch times or difficult situations.
School leaders can stimulate horizontal communication by encouraging principals to create a social media site for teachers to share ideas for lesson plans using technology in innovative ways. One goal could be for teachers to help students understand how concepts work in real-world situations.
School principals must be sensitive to their staff's needs, which means making sure administrators have strong programs for physical and mental well-being that meet state guidelines.
Vertical and horizontal communication builds trust between faculty and administrators because honest communication will take place at all levels within and across buildings and classrooms.
If teachers are happy with their jobs, they are more likely to deliver on the promises of an education system. Impactful school leaders are empathetic. They consider staff members' physical, mental, and emotional well-being ahead of grades and test scores.
They may want to start by creating an empathy committee made up of teachers, administrators, and parents. This group focuses on the physical well-being of staff members and creating schedules that minimize stress on family life.
It may come to light that some teachers work more than one job to keep their family afloat financially, while others work so much overtime on campus that they have no time left for their families.
Impactful leaders consider the emotional health of staff members because overworked, stressed educators are less likely to perform at their best level, leading to high turnover rates within a building or district. Schools face enough challenges already without adding this frustration into the mix.
Empathy committees can share ideas with school leaders about how to improve the emotional health of educators. For instance, a teacher who has been going through a rough time might need extra support from their principal, and empathy committee members could suggest staff programs where teachers get together to enjoy fun activities outside of school hours.
In these relaxed settings, educators can talk about their problems with each other in a "safe zone" where they know people are not judging them.
School principals must be sensitive to their staff's needs, which means making sure administrators have strong programs for physical and mental well-being that meet state guidelines. They should work with empathy committees to update policies to fit the evolving needs of today's educator workforce.
This will help school leaders better understand their staff members' needs and create an environment that focuses on the people instead of test scores.
Top roles in education not only require strong leadership skills but also listening abilities coupled with empathy. This enables school leaders to reduce turnover rates among educators, leading to higher student achievement.
School leaders who remove obstacles from the paths of teachers who want to stay active in their careers are ones who truly care about their team's well-being. In addition, leadership that listens to what teachers have to say at all levels of a building or district improves teacher morale and motivation.
Finally, school leaders are responsible for ensuring that each employee is physically and mentally healthy so they can be at their best as they teach students.
What are you doing to improve your leadership focus?