3 Simple Ways School Leaders Can Boost Teacher Morale During Distance Learning
Sarah Strode, Assistant Principal, Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary
I never imagined my first year as an assistant principal would coincide with Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary going virtual for the first time. I expected this year to be new, but being a virtual school leader is tough. This is a unique challenge that school leaders across the country were given, with little time to adapt. The reality is that being a school leader, virtual or in-person, isn’t meant to come naturally. It takes adaptability, determination, and most importantly vulnerability.
I don’t have all the answers, and no one should! But what I do have is the power to cultivate relationships, the power to construct a virtual workplace that people are eager to enter daily, and the opportunity to construct a space for staff to feel seen and heard. Simply put, my role is just as important virtually as it is in-person. If I can create a place where our teachers feel loved and supported, our students will be led to feel loved and supported, as well.
Here are 3 simple, yet powerful ways to boost teacher morale virtually:
Tip #1: Start and End the day on a positive note TOGETHER
Humans crave structure, especially in times of unease and uncertainty. Starting the day with a virtual morning huddle and ending the day with a virtual afternoon huddle is a quick and effective way to bring your school staff together, and create positive energy simultaneously! These huddles don’t have to be long; in fact the shorter, the more heightened staff morale will be! Who doesn’t love when a planned meeting ends a little early? Begin the meetings with shout outs, gratitudes, or just give your staff the space to share about their day. Hearing and partaking in sharing positive language will not only make your staff feel seen and valued, but positive language will also drive them to succeed! Be sure to keep your staff in the loop with important updates during these meetings. Now more than ever, communication is key!
Tip #2: Virtual Bonding
The possibilities are virtually endless! Paint night, game night, Zoomba, happy hours with a designated DJ, daily workouts that cultivate accountability partners – you name it and it can be done virtually. Humans are wired for connection; it’s in our DNA. This makes it even more imperative that we, as leaders, construct a virtual space to foster connection and acceptance. The more connected your staff feels, the more they will have an increased positive mood and mindset.
Tip #3: Coaching, but Make it Virtual
A relationship-based leader is going to drive results and outcomes. An authentic relationship should be the basis of all coach/teacher partnerships, whether virtual or in person! Start with getting to know your teacher out of the classroom: use your 1:1 coaching conversations to learn about their family, what they do to unwind, how they enjoy spending their time. Learn their working style, but let your teacher learn yours! How do they prefer to be coached? Live through the chat feature in Zoom, via text, a follow-up email from the day’s observations, on the phone during the live lesson, just to name a few! Use Common Planning Time Meetings with your team to continue to foster positive relationships among the staff, and between the leader and the individual. Provide metacognitive opportunities for the team to reflect on the positive outcomes from the week, and to reflect on areas of development. It is equally as important to provide a space for staff to be vulnerable in sharing their thoughts and feelings, and for them to be heard. Communication is the basis of your virtual coaching relationships!
Use these tips to foster your own positive virtual environment. This is essential in boosting staff morale. If we empower our staff and ensure they feel valued, this will enable them to design their own space for students to feel the same!
Published on October 1, 2020
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