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How Principals Can Support Teachers — Compare Your Strategy to 500 Others

Olivia Jones
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As the 2021-2022 school year is wrapping up, many teachers are eagerly looking forward to a relaxing summer break. School may not be in session right now, but it’s still a great time for administrators to rethink their strategy for supporting and retaining teachers. With the teacher shortage still growing and residual pandemic burnout in the mix, teachers need to know that the school administration has their back.

Why teacher support matters more than ever

Teachers are facing many challenges right now. Schools are understaffed and still dealing with the learning loss students experienced during the worst months of the pandemic. The need for teacher support has not gone unnoticed. Our research found that teacher morale and staffing shortages were the top two priorities for school administrators. Luckily, there are a number of strategies school principals can use to support teachers in the classroom.

Ways to support teachers

Ask for their input

Feeling listened to and appreciated can bring a great sense of purpose and satisfaction to one’s work. Teachers work hard. Those long hours give them a ground-level insight into what students need most. Since policy changes significantly impact their work experience, teachers can provide a perspective often lacking in administrative leadership. Help your teachers feel heard by asking them to share their opinions on key issues and strategy decisions. Show that you’ve listened to what they have suggested by incorporating their feedback into your decision-making process.

Have an open-door policy

It’s also important to cultivate a workspace where teachers feel they can approach administration with concerns or ideas, even when not explicitly asked to do so. Establish an open-door policy and emphasize your willingness to listen to teachers’ feedback. Maintaining open lines of communication discourages gossip and promotes a feeling of community.

Prioritize team-building

34% of teachers say that more time to collaborate with their colleagues would help them better manage their day-to-day teaching responsibilities. You can lean into this trend by allowing time for, and encouraging, staff team building. When teachers have time to work together, they collaborate, have fun, support one another, try new things, and boost morale. There is only so much school administrators can do to truly lighten the workload for teachers. Encouraging a sense of community among staff can give teachers the support and resilience they need to make it through the tough times.

Verbal support and affirmation

Teaching can (but shouldn’t) be a thankless occupation. Thank teachers by name when they do good work or go above and beyond. Shout out your teachers and staff publicly, such as in the school email newsletter or over the PA system at a football game! Affirming teachers also means responding well when they offer helpful feedback, so if your teachers make suggestions to the administration, thank them for making the effort to engage.

Rewards and incentives

Verbal support means a lot, but tangible rewards also go very far to improve teacher morale. Whether it’s treats like catered food, gift cards, or a group yoga class, a break from the typical daily grind is always welcome. It’s great to share these rewards with all of your teachers when possible, but when resources are limited, you can still reward teachers through a random drawing, raffle, or friendly competition.

Better pay and benefits

Teacher pay and benefits aren’t always within a school principal’s purview. But school administrators must recognize the importance of improving pay and benefits for teachers. In a recent study, nearly half of teachers reported feeling frequently anxious about their financial situation– more than double the average response for employees in other sectors. This financial stress is exacerbated by the fact that teachers are often responsible for purchasing supplies for their classroom. If you can’t improve pay for teachers, advocate for improving their pay within the school system. You can also try to make sure that classroom supply needs are met with school funds rather than teachers’ paychecks.

Expand staff

One side effect of the ongoing staffing crisis in education is that many teachers are overworked. As some of their colleagues have left their jobs and those positions have gone unfilled, existing teachers have had to work extra to pick up the slack. This extra work cuts into vital planning time and other downtime during the day, which teachers use to grade work or plan lessons. To the degree possible, fill any open positions within your school before the school year starts. Teachers who are asked to take on too much extra work are on the fast track to burnout, which only perpetuates this cycle.

Update technology

17% of teachers said that having better access to educational technology in the classroom would help them teach more effectively. And in our recent survey, 58% of school leaders said that having the right technology in classrooms would reduce teacher stress. 

We’ve heard firsthand from teachers about how helpful Splats are in their STEM classrooms! Splats games combine fun physical activity with basic coding concepts. For many teachers, educational technology like Splats are a great way to break up the monotony of the school day, improve student engagement, and introduce complex concepts in an accessible way.

Unruly Splats Survey Results

We know school administrators are working hard to prevent teacher burnout and prepare for success in the upcoming school year. For more strategies, check out our survey results about teacher appreciation from over 500 principals and show teachers that you’re committed to supporting them and doing what it takes to make the 2022-2023 school year a success!

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

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