Whitney Green is an assistant principal at Ooltewah Elementary in Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga, TN. She currently leads the implementation of EL K-5th and is taking full advantage of utilizing Kiddom within the classrooms at Ooltewah Elementary as both have positively affected her students success this year. She is excited to share her drive and her experiences with others.
This article is the first of three in our "Get Set, Connect, Engage!" Back to School Series for School Leaders. Today we're focusing on how administrators can Get Set for this unusual year by providing extra support for their teachers. We will update the other blogs here as each is published:
This past school year, everyone around the world was pressed and stretched in ways they had never imagined or thought about. Moving into this next year, it is more critical than ever to support our teachers after the year they just had.
I believe everyone grew in some way last year, whether you have been an educator for twenty years or two months. Moving forward, there are many takeaways we can and should utilize, as it would be a shame to not continue some of the great practices we've learned. Here I'll outline some of the most supportive measures I witnessed as an administrator this past year, as well as key insights teachers provided that have resonated with me which could be valuable as we "get set" for another year during a pandemic.
1. Treat Teachers Like the Professionals They Are
This is crucial. I think sometimes educators are not given the respect they deserve – they are professionals, so treat them as professionals. I think a common mistake many school leaders make, myself included, is they lack the right communication/collaboration with teachers. I have found the biggest impact I can have upon students is by working with teachers and including them in decisions – and just listening. This is key – listening.
I realize we can’t always consult with teachers about every matter, but try to carve out time to talk with them when thinking about instructional strategies or changes, or implementing a new curriculum. And don't forget to highlight them when they're doing great things – recognition is a great way to show your respect for someone's professionalism.
Another great way to show respect for teachers as professionals is by providing them with more autonomy. Platforms like Kiddom allow for more autonomy while also offering greater transparency for administrators and co-teachers, alike.
2. Provide Transparency and Accountability
I realize setting accountability measures may seem like an odd way to support teachers, but in actuality, teachers want to know what is expected of them. In our building, we have a saying, “inspect what you expect.” Allow teachers to know when you are going to come and observe how they are implementing a new practice. When administrators drop in unannounced, many teachers feel like this is an “I gotcha”. Give them transparency by letting them know when you are coming to plan with them, and be seen more often in classrooms, rather than just for formal observations.
Our job as leaders is to ensure we are providing high-level instruction for all students, and teachers need to understand your expectations and then make sure you always follow through with what you say or expect. An easy way to keep accountability and transparency within a school building is to make all decisions based on what is best for students. Teachers will never have to guess or even assume, as they know your one focus and how all decisions are then decided, students first.
With a platform like Kiddom, you have transparency into the teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom, and you can come to an observation more informed and ready to have constructive conversations.
3. Facilitate Actionable Feedback
I know as a teacher, one of my biggest pet peeves was to receive feedback like, “ Good job, keep up the great work.” Even though I know some would like to hear this, it did not make me a better teacher for my students. We all know that everyone can always improve upon something, so make sure you are always prepared to provide actionable feedback both from informal and formal observations.
If you feel there are some teachers who you genuinely struggle to provide this type of feedback, put it back on them! Ask them an area they could improve upon, or how they would rate themselves. Part of our jobs is building capacities in others and sometimes teachers (as we all are) are unconsciously competent or consciously incompetent (I know, these are mouthfuls!). Teachers need to be able to recognize areas to strengthen within their own craft, and sometimes leadership means just being a facilitator in this conversation for them to come to their own conclusions. This is powerful!
4. Give the Greatest Gift of All… Time
Carving out time for teachers to plan is critical to the success and support teachers so desperately need. I know at the elementary level, their planning time may consist of thirty minutes a day by the time they drop off students, use the bathroom, respond to emails, and then pickup students on time. If collaborative planning is a focus, make sure they understand how to plan wisely and productively as a team. Implement protocols such as preplanning and planning.
Kiddom helps teachers save time by keeping all of their tools in one place.
5. Provide Powerful Professional Development (PD)!
Now PD is one of those things that either can be amazing or horrible; having attended quite a few PDs as a teacher, I felt most PD fell into one of these two categories as. I found the most powerful PD to be from those who have walked in my shoes, personal experiences, and are passionate about what they are presenting. One thing I absolutely hated was wasting my time with a PD that did not align or apply to my students or instruction. Interestingly enough, the feedback we received from teachers about PD is allowing teachers within the building to lead some of the professional develop[ment. This not only builds capacity within your building but also allows others to learn from their peers, potentially lending itself to learning labs.
6. Utilize New Skills/Resources
Digital skills are here to stay! It is critical for leadership to support teachers with these skills, continuing to have expectations around the use of these skills. As administrators, I would review what digital tools you want to keep using and which ones you will not use, but utilize data to support these decisions.
Tools like Kiddom can be used in the classroom or virtually, so students can get in the habit of seeing their assignments in the same place, regardless of where they're logging in.
I believe as leaders, we are about to embark upon a group of educators who are eager and re-energized to come back to some normalcy and are ready to tackle this school year. I realize the pandemic is not completely gone, but we are prepared and have the tools to pivot to work smarter, not harder this year. After having a trying year, that I think it left every educator feeling completely depleted, we need to remember to incorporate ways for our educators to interact with one another and have some fun those first few days back!
It is critical you utilize those first few days of PD with your faculty and remember, this is your time to set the tone for the year. Do not forget about having ice breaker games, meetings face to face if possible, highlighting any new employees working in the building, reviewing data, school mission/goal, etc. Last year did not allow for all of these things to occur, and for many, a loss of morale happened. I think if anything, teachers need stability this year. Like I have always said, consistency is key.
Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.
For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.
Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?
Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.
You might also be interested in these articles:
Instructional Coach Ann Leghorn applauds teachers for their adaptivity and shares 3 changes in the culture of virtual teacher observations.
In the last weekend of January, educators and proponents of digital curriculum gathered to discuss its impact on schools with Kiddom.
Everything you need to know about the new Kiddom + Illustrative Mathematics by Kendall Hunt K-12 digital curriculum partnership.