Key Questions To Ask Your Staff

Last week I had in-depth conversations with three outstanding educators. Two of them are teachers, and one is a building principal. These people are the cream of the crop when it comes to educators. All of them have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place for the learners in the classrooms and buildings. None of them have a jaded attitude about the worth of their profession.What all of them share is a foreboding sense of exhaustion. The pandemic is partly to blame for how they feel, but it is not the entire picture. Sure, the pandemic upended so many routines and put a lot of pressure on educators. Overall, they made it through that aspect of the pandemic.What they are struggling with is the secondary effects of the pandemic. Namely, the change in attitude from the public toward their job and profession. More specifically, the way the learners, parents, and community members talk to them is often degrading and mean. These behaviors spiked during the last school year and show no sign of abating.It’s almost like frontline educators are taking the brunt of the frustration that people experience in our society about how they perceive their lives are going. People can’t interact with the President, the Congressperson, or Senator…but they do see their school staff. As a matter of fact, they feel they can summon the school staff just to “give them a piece of my mind.” They are taking their frustrations out on the closest person that represents what they are disagreeing with…and that happens to be a teacher or a school leader. This is a huge burden to bear and it is driving people out of our profession.I have no answer or fix to this problem. However, as a school leader, there are a few things you can do to help people through this tough time.1. Acknowledge to your staff that the behaviors directed at them are not their fault and you will support them. Oftentimes your staff just wants to know the boss knows (and appreciates) what they are going through.2. Give time. Time is the most precious commodity to an educator. How can you give more time to your staff? Can you be creative and not assign a duty to them? Can you brainstorm how to figure out coverages when you can’t find substitute teachers? Show grace when a staff member has to leave a few minutes early for an appointment. These are small things that prove your respect for your staff3. Ask how you can help. use one or all of the following questions with at least some of your staff…every day           -What can I do to make your life easier this week?           -What can I take off your plate?           -What is one thing that will make your job better?I hope these are useful and that you use some of these strategies starting this week.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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