Many teachers experience some level of “Educational Trauma” as they get ready to start a new school year. It’s no wonder students struggle academically if teachers struggle to look forward to ‘going back to school’. What can be done to help teachers see their value and encourage their success?
As my brilliant and beautiful, school teacher wife prepared to return to school, she randomly added a Facebook post that said, “Last fling before school starts on Monday!” One of our out of state teaching friends commented, quite honestly… that the sound of school starting just made me sick (with a smiley face). My suspicion is that she is not alone. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of teachers invest hours and personal money in their craft, hungry to engage students, to bring learning to life, only to met with challenging work environments that devalue the important work they do.
Overseeing a school, or classroom, is a huge challenge; the paperwork, the people, the state, the testing, the parents, the teachers and the arm-chair experts. It’s no picnic being a school administrator (public, private or charter); I’m confident the grief you get from people over their kids makes you wonder if the pay is worth the price. As a teacher, I imagine you find yourself overwhelmed by the paper work clutter that teachers are forced to manage; work that can make it hard to find time to teach. It’s not easy.
If you’re an administrator or part of a staff who is actively working to rescue your team from the burden of “Back to School” Educational Trauma, I tip my hat to you. You’re my hero. If you’re a teacher working to look excited about the new year but wondering how long until you’re just struggling alone, my heart goes out to you with a great big thank you! I appreciate your persistent care and personal sacrifice to invest in students who need knowledge and affirmation you’re ready to share.
What causes teachers to experience, new-school-year “Educational Trauma”? I think all leadership challenges are connected to the people at the top. It’s true in business, churches, civic organizations, etc. As the leaders grow, their organizations grow too. It’s my assumption that school leaders want to do well and see success. All people do what they do because they believe will be successful. If they didn’t think it would help them or others, they wouldn’t do it.
Administrators and school staff are no different. They want to see good and initially believe it should be achievable. But as life happens, school leadership can often feel ill equipped to lead and struggle to define the qualities they hope to see fleshed out under their watch. Some will retreat until they’re cornered and then engage in harsh and unkind ways; some will be given to micro-manage in ways that stifle creativity; and yet others will be so hands off that teachers will critically wonder what their leaders do to help them win. In the end, when administrators struggle, teachers retreat to their classrooms and trust disappears. If there’s no trust, you’re only steps away from some type of interpersonal trauma.
How can we rescue teachers from Educational Trauma as they begin their this new school year?
- Express appreciation; say thank you – frequently. Many of you already practice this beautiful habit. It doesn’t matter if you’re an administrator, fellow teacher or parent, a heart-felt thank you will bless the people who serve your kids and encourage the overall success of the team that will bless the kids.
- Cultivate a family feel at school by taking an interest in the people around you at work. Be interested in each others’ lives, your staff’s lives, your administrator’s lives. Take time to laugh during inservice programs, even if you’re just suffering through them together, there’s something therapeutic when we’re not suffering alone.
- Seek to serve people around you, even if it personally requires a little sacrifice because what you sow today will reap you a harvest tomorrow. Help other teachers, share ideas, don’t keep all the good resources, believe in the idea of abundance and give so that others will win. As they do, you’ll win more too.
- If you’re an administrator, find ways to engage your team and lead them forward!
May I remind you that MANY other careers create cultures where workers struggle to feel valued (and are outright discouraging). These cultures see more absenteeism, more more workplace volatility, and a significantly high rate of turnover. Workers in these kinds of environment CANNOT bring their best-selves into their work roles and so the employer and the employee both suffer.
The same rules apply in every school and classroom; the only difference is that the stakes are higher. When school environments unintentionally create stress and workplace anxiety increases, teachers cannot access all their intellectual creativity and it reduces classroom impact. The more pressure, stress and conflict they feel, the more the students get the left-overs.
The good news? We can rescue teachers from the stress of returning to school. We can create a school family that staff and students want to be a part. Maybe you’re doing it now or enjoying it at this very moment! Any school can proactively engage; taking steps to build an exciting, shared mission. You can focus in on pivotal values that leverage your creativity and release your teacher’s passions around the high value of the vocation of teaching!
We believe that “Hopeful, Energized Teachers Build Better Students.” That’s what we seek to do at www.CharterSchoolCoachingSolutions.com. We provide school consultation, personalized leadership development and ongoing (transforming) coaching solutions to position your leadership to release teachers for maximum impact.