By now, it’s common knowledge that teachers are the key to a successful school. Great school leaders understand how to train, motivate, and retain all-star teachers. As the new school year kicks off, here are six tips on how administrators can motivate teachers from Day 1.
1. Evaluate current levels of engagement.
Find or develop engagement surveys for your faculty and staff. How engaged are your employees right now?
These surveys will give you a baseline and identify areas of need. For instance, are working conditions safe and comfortable? Do teachers feel supported? Are they proud of the quality of education at your school?
Answering these questions at the beginning of the year will help you create a plan moving forward.
2. Welcome teachers in style.
Naturally, teachers who feel appreciated are more motivated and engaged. Welcome them back to school by:
- Literally rolling out a red carpet
- Providing free meals and a gift or two (like a tumbler or T-shirt)
- Distributing “Beginning of the School Year Survival Bags”
- Personally greeting each teacher at the door with a big smile and a handshake or high five
- Creating a celebratory atmosphere during the first week back
If you’re already back to school, it’s never too late! Visit classrooms to personally deliver a simple gift recognizing a successful start to the year.
3. Offer praise and recognition.
Similarly, a little praise and recognition goes a long way. Too often, teachers don’t feel that their efforts are seen.
Recognize your teachers’ hard work by:
- Including a “shout out” section in weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly emails
- Awarding a “Teacher of the Month” at staff meetings, complete with a small plaque or a designated parking spot
- Giving specific, in-the-moment praise (e.g., “The way you incorporated discussion in that activity was outstanding!”)
- Creating a weekly or monthly award like the “Spirit Award,” the “Golden Apple,” or “The Class Act Award” and having the previous winner choose (and present the award to) the next winner
- Sending a personal email thanking a teacher for going above and beyond or for positively impacting students
There are countless ways to recognize and reward your teachers. Choose a few from the list and practice them from the start.
4. Give teachers a voice.
Leaving teachers out of decisions that directly impact them is one of the fastest ways to demotivate your staff. Although you’ll make the final decisions for your school, it’s vital to involve teachers in the process.
At the start of the year (or near the start if you’re already underway), have teachers answer a few quick questions, such as:
- What do you think went very well last year?
- What do you think could be improved this year?
- Do you have any ideas for school improvement initiatives, policies, staff development, etc. for this year?
- What can the administration do to support you and/or make this year a positive one?
Take the time to read responses and incorporate them when possible. Other ideas to give your teachers a voice include:
- Place a Suggestion Box in the faculty lounge.
- Encourage teachers to voice their questions and concerns.
- Invite a teacher representative from each grade level to board meetings.
- If possible, have “open-door” meetings where teachers can sit in and listen.
- At faculty meetings, ask teachers their opinions on important issues and/or have teachers vote.
Treat teachers like respected professionals, and you’ll see a significant increase in buy-in.
5. Encourage collaboration.
Collaboration allows teachers to share lesson ideas, classroom management techniques, and materials. This lessens the workload and improves the quality of teaching at your school.
By prioritizing collaboration, you’ll also motivate your teachers. Consider creating professional learning communities and setting aside time weekly or bi-weekly for PLCs to meet. In addition, create time for teachers to visit one another’s classrooms.
Build a supportive community from the start of the year to boost motivation and reduce stress.
6. Give them space.
According to Education Week, teachers who regain some degree of control over their work perform better. They’re also more likely to enjoy teaching and stay with the profession longer.
Yes, there will be standards and curricula for your teachers to follow. However, give them as much freedom as possible to determine how they teach the necessary skills. After all, no one knows your students and how they learn better than your teachers.
Additionally, give teachers space to prioritize their goals and interests. For instance, don’t set a strict PLC agenda. Let each grade level or subject area decide what will help them succeed.
Creating space for creativity and ownership can restore the joy of teaching. Make it clear from Day 1 that you appreciate the art of teaching.
Final Thoughts: How Administrators Can Motivate Teachers
Making an effort to motivate and engage your teachers increases teacher retention, improves student outcomes, and fosters a positive school culture. It encourages your teachers to go above and beyond and perform at their best.
Whether you provide free coffee in the teacher’s lounge or a monthly continental breakfast, simple gestures can make a big difference. But increasing motivation requires more than free breakfast, too.
From the start of the year, show your appreciation and respect for teachers. Allow them the collaboration, creativity, and space they need to teach effectively–and enjoy themselves in the process. Motivate your teachers, and you’ll significantly improve your school.