When a classroom "works" it is a powerful place to be. While the students ultimately make these moments, talented educators need to set the stage for success.
The same can be said of harmonious faculty and staff relations. A building full of talented people does not guarantee a comfortable place to grow as an educator. In honor of Edutopia's 20th anniversary, here are 20 ways to cultivate a healthy faculty environment:
1. Time for kudos Educators move from lesson to student to phone to meeting to class all day, some even eat standing up at their desks. Spend the first 5 minutes of faculty meeting with an open floor for anyone to compliment a colleague and the entire room will shift in a positive direction. A thanks for covering lunch duty, recognition of a powerful teaching moment, even a self-congratulatory announcement can create a space for people to smile.
2. Look at a calendar Teachers are expected to engage multiple senses when presenting information, faculty meetings should be no different. Spend 5 minutes viewing a calendar together to get a 2-week overview along with any other significant future events. If this is done digitally, any missing events can be added and responsibilities documented.
3. Present yourselves as a team Faculty meetings are a place to debate and negotiate policy and practice. When the meeting is over, the team needs to present a unified front and support the decision that has been made. It is fine if someone dissents, but that doesn't excuse them from supporting the team.
4. Simple surprises Celebrate the unexpected with low or no-cost surprises. Deliver a flat of strawberries to the lounge on a day of parent conferences, blast "Eye of the Tiger" through the PA system prior to back-to-school night, or hire a masseuse to give 10 minute back rubs.
5. Share facilitator responsibilities The meeting needs to be managed, not dictated. Take turns leading and everyone will have a chance to participate.
6. Light and air Both are good for living things. Is your faculty room a closet with a desk or is it an actual space to stop and breath?
7. Move computers out of the faculty room A break room isn't a quiet place to keep working or a spill-over planning space: it is a place to stop for a moment, connect with other adults and enjoy the progress students are making. If teachers need computer access during a down moment, don't make the machines the centerpiece of the room.
8. Get a handle on gossip Unify the team and work through any disagreements face-to-face. Some faculty rooms can become uninviting because of the negative conversations. Claim the space as a retreat from the bustle of school and set a high standard for decent interaction. This includes negative comments about students.
9. Be punctual Teachers might have 30 to 75 free minutes in a school day to use the restroom, eat, and grade. If you are asking for some of that time, be sure to show up on time prepared to move through the agenda items.
10. No public admonishment As we tell our students, everyone makes mistakes and we must learn from them. If a team member missteps, have an honest conversation to address the situation but do so in a quiet place instead of in front of other colleagues.
11. Quid pro quo In a world of instant communication, an idle thought and 2-sentence email can become hours of work for someone else. If you are going to ask a teacher for their time and expertise, be sure to explain how you will be putting in an equal amount of work to support them or carry their message on.
12. Face-to-face check in Administrators and faculty sometimes let the efficiency of digital communication get in the way of a real connection. Take a few minutes a day to look a colleague in the eye and get beyond any reflexive answers to "How are you?"
13. Informal PA lunch meetings Philosophy-based conversations between teachers and parents are typically scheduled after an educator has put in a full day of work. Have the parent association host a lunch during school hours once a month and invite a couple of teachers to eat and chat about year-long goals or curricular strands.
14. Simple tracking system for IT and facilities requests Teachers are required to be responsive to students, parents and admin. Extend the same courtesy back and be sure that they have an easy way of figuring out who will be fixing the broken chair or when their purchase order was completed.
15. Manage the intranet/server file structure The seven mapped network drives on the school server might have five years of data in them. Provide one location for everything that an educator might be required to access. Name the folders clearly (schedules, procedures, etc.) and archive past information by year.
16. Develop a clear plan around online interaction of students & teachers Many teachers are at the forefront of online social tools and are re-imagining their intent for the classroom. Come up with a functional plan with input from everyone and document it for reference.
17. Promote alternate transportation methods Most schools provide parking for teacher vehicles, some city schools even cover the cost of a parking spot. Give employees the choice of the parking spot, a bus pass, or a bicycle club membership.
18. Shopping club membership Even though many teachers spend all of their waking hours on campus, many have homes and families. Negotiate a business rate with Costco or another club store.
19. Association memberships Want to encourage all teachers to be lifelong learners? Give them the resources to do so. Find a professional development association that matches your school's core messaging and join. There are groups for outdoor education, middle learning education, music, accreditation, religious affiliation, early education, and more.
20. Flu shots, CPR training, pre-school requirements Is there anything that all teachers are required to do for employment? If so, bring the errand to school. It is cheaper to buy 200 flu shots than to send every educator to a pharmacy. Save a teacher an hour of time and you have a grateful employee.
What tips do you have for creating a safe place to learn and teach?