Micro doses of professional development can help inspire winter-weary staff, supplementing monthly PD meetings that typically offer tangible take-away information while eliciting teacher input, Hammarskjord Middle School (New Jersey) Principal Michael S. Gaskell writes for eSchool News.
Micro PD provides bonding opportunities that help teachers get through the stressful mid-year months when they're preparing students for testing, providing five-minute sessions that introduce a concept (team building) and why they are doing it (everyone’s dealing with difficult students and parents), and provide a team-building quote that staff reflect on for a bit and then share how it applies to them.
Gaskell writes that these sessions occur weekly and that his staff is adding fun ideas, inspired by the chance to get together in a more relaxed way on a regular basis and bond over issues related to the classroom and beyond.
The first few months of school are full of rested and rejuvenated teachers ready to take on the educational world. By January and February, however, they're well aware of the challenges they'll face each day in the classroom, not to mention from the looming standardized testing season.
To counter these effects, there are simple practices administrators can do to perk up those weary educators. Among them: Making the school, and especially the teacher’s area, homey by adding plants and flowers, putting out healthy snacks, and providing magazines. Showing appreciation with a verbal thank you or a hand-written note also goes a long way. The team will have an incentive to work harder if they feel appreciated for their efforts.
Additionally, holding regular meetings where goals and plans are well-communicated, letting staff know that they are trusted, and recognizing individual strengths and differences are all essential.
Teachers need to feel valued, so listen to them and take their opinions seriously. Work with them to come up with solutions that make sense and provide support for their work. Encouraging teachers to work in teams will help ease the stress and isolation that can lead them to feel overwhelmed, and one way to do this is by arranging team-building activities and games like Gaskell's micro PDs.
Another strategy is to inspire teachers to be part of the solution and then recognize them for it. Rather than have one teacher of the year, why not recognize several teachers for different innovations? Instead of expecting teachers to comply, see their innovation and ideas.
Companies in all industries are adjusting their office environments to better support and cater to the needs of their employees. Educators are no different. They too need support from the top.