Webster dictionary defines stamina as “great physical or mental strength that allows you to continue doing something for a long time. As we build stamina in our students we also need to help build stamina in our teachers. Recently I was working with a group of teachers who were assessing their bell ringers as they were figuring out how they could stretch these opening exercises to build capacity in their students. A meaningful discussion took place in the room that afternoon. There was a part of the group that gave excuses while the other part of the group moved over to a new mindset. Comments made from these educators were “The bottom line is Suzy is not getting it, so I have to ask my team how can I teach fractions differently” or “We spent a lot of time on these bell ringers, but look at the outcomes! Impressive!” It is important we take time to reflect and pay attention to what IS working and what we need to put aside for the time being so we can have these small celebrations.
As we move into testing season, I would like to suggest a few ways principals can be building stamina in their teachers. We need to let our teachers know they can prepare our students and show that we believe in them. Below is a list of some ways to keep building teacher stamina:
- Growth Mindset: Teachers have to show their students as learners they are capable of a growth mindset. As learners we all have the ability to grow and put the effort forward to change our habits. A true learner is intrinsically motivated and will engage in new material.
- Know When to Push: Just a little encouragement with our teachers can go a long way. “Think of how good Suzy will feel when she masters her multiplication table ” can make a change in the way a teacher can feel about the work he/she is doing.
- Smell the Roses: Take some time to notice the achievements teachers are making with their students along the way. Encourage celebrations. Make a commitment to get back to them right away and give feedback. Too often principals get stuck in their offices and don’t get back to teachers after they have witnessed positive interactions or an incredible lesson.
- Model, Model, Model: Try not to be a preacher but share personal stories with teaching staff. Share wins and losses with your teachers. Take the time to make yourself as a learner vulnerable.
- Positive Phone Messages: Take the time, even if it is 2x per week to pick up the phone or send an email to a teacher sharing some positive things going on in their classrooms. Better yet, take some photos or video and post in the hallways, teacher lounges or near the faculty mailboxes.
- Small Surprises: Surprise a teacher and show up for a duty, give them some time to tend to their other responsibilities. Let them know you value their time and work.
- Brain Power: Point out to faculty that the brain has elasticity and when it learns you are bending it and allowing it to grown. Put teachers in the learner spot using different methods of teaching to show them that one method does not work for all. Help them realize the need to differentiate in and out of the classroom.
- Principal Parking Spot: Announce on morning announcements each Monday a teacher who gets your parking spot for the week. Keep them guessing what will you do next?
- Buy My Valentine: One year I bought lottery tickets on Valentines Day for our teachers. It was a fun surprise and they loved checking their numbers the following weekend. It provided fun chatter at the mailboxes on a cold, dreary Monday morning.
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: When we are building stamina we have to keep a focus on what we are accomplishing, how we are accomplishing it and where do we go from here. Sometimes you will need to share your expectations or mission five times in order for faculty to hear you.
- Green Bagels: Put green bagels in the teacher lounge on St. Patrick’s Day. Teachers love food and it provides some social time for the faculty.
- Share High Expectations: As a leader of a school or a district you have high expectations. Share that you have confidence in your teachers and know they can rise to these expectations. Ensure adequate resources are in place in order for them to be successful and they are set up for success.
It does not always have to be a material present to show appreciation. Many teachers just appreciate seeing a visible principal in the hallways, classrooms, and cafeteria. Take the time to build the stamina in your teachers and they will build the stamina in your students.
~Debra Lane, Ed.D, Edwards ED Consultant