Successful teachers are happy teachers with more energy to give their students, Brookwood Elementary School (Georgia) Principal Tracey Smith writes in eSchool News, suggesting that embedding ongoing practices that allow opportunities to grow creates a culture of support.
Smith writes that she supports her teachers by getting to know them, embracing an open-door policy and reaching out when she senses someone is struggling while also trying to find commonalities between herself and her teachers so they can bond.
It’s important for teachers to know leadership has their back, and Smith also advocates self-care by encouraging teachers to take some time to relax rather than working around the clock.
Teachers earn salaries that in many cases haven't kept up with the pace of inflation, yet their job is among the most demanding. Though they enter the profession to pursue a passion of working with students, low pay, high demands and non-supportive environments can quickly burn them out.
The tone of a school’s culture is largely set by its principal, who must embed strategies to foster ongoing support. For example, Smith makes it a point to email three teachers every evening to compliment them on something they did.
Matthew Howell, a middle school principal in New Jersey, supports teachers by using their time efficiently. He keeps expectations sensible and is willing to say "no" to good ideas that may overburden his already overtaxed teachers. When he starts initiatives, he begins small with volunteers who are interested in the topic. Working out any kinks on a small, invested group avoids wasting other teachers’ time on mistakes.
Encouraging educators to take care of themselves is also critical, as burnt out teachers’ unhappiness can rub off on their students and other faculty members. But promoting self-care means more than telling a teacher to be sure they take their lunch break.
The Happy Teacher Revolution is a program that reinforces the old airplane adage of “Secure your own oxygen mask first before assisting children.” The movement is meant to promote the idea that self-care is not selfish. Taking breaks to get away from work or from a toxic situation doesn't mean teachers are neglecting their duties. By taking care of themselves, they ultimately maintain more of themselves to give to students.