Jo Ann Flaxbeard - Boys Town National Training
Teachers are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Whether we are parents, administrators, or fellow teachers, it is important to show our appreciation for all the work they do, now, during Teacher Appreciation Week (and as often as we can throughout the year).
One way to show our appreciation and acknowledgment of teachers’ commitment and expertise is to ask for and encourage their input when implementing school initiatives. After all, teachers are the experts on how their classrooms work.
How, then is the best approach in encouraging Teacher Engagement? Think about having a PLAN.
P: Purposeful Communication. At the beginning of the planning stage for any new initiative, it is important to get teacher input. When teachers buy-in to new programs, the program has a greater potential to take hold. Include them in conversations regarding reasons for the initiative and research supporting it. Don’t stop there! Generate conversations and ask for input concerning strengths and challenges teachers might find when implementing.
We find ourselves at a time when meeting the social and emotional needs of our students can be just as important as meeting academic needs. Here at Boys Town, we provide programs and training for schools looking to strengthen that aspect of a school’s mission. As you begin conversations about the behavioral needs of your students, encourage teachers to discuss the behavioral struggles they see in their students. When teachers are given a voice to articulate these challenges, they are more likely to embed strategies they learn in a workshop such as our Well-Managed Schools to meet the needs of their students.
L: Lay the groundwork for clear goals and expectations. Too often district and school administrators ask teachers to implement a new program without providing an opportunity for them to fully understand expectations or short and long-term goals. Clearly articulate professional development opportunities, implementation timelines, and a timeline for goals. When developing a timeline for goals, be sure to include teacher input here as well.
Schools have many options when looking into training and professional development opportunities provided by Boys Town. Our website www.boystowntraining.org provides information on workshops designed for teachers, administrators, and parents to help students learn positive, prosocial behaviors by using proven behavioral teaching techniques. As you lay the groundwork for implementing our Well-Managed Schools or Specialized Classroom Management programs, let teachers know about trainings, implementation timelines, and expected goals and outcomes.
A: Allow for authentic collaboration. Throughout implementation, keep those lines of communication open. As teachers get into the day-to-day work of any new program, inevitably new challenges will arise. It will be important to discuss and problem-solve any issues early on so that consistency can be maintained. However, don’t discuss problems only. Give teachers an opportunity to share successes as well.
When implementing a new program, it is helpful to allow teachers to collaborate in order to hear how others are able to embed the initiative into their classroom’s day. The more efficiently and effortlessly a new program is embedded and teachers are able to coordinate with other initiatives makes it more likely teachers will find success and value in a new program. The strategies teachers learn in our workshops work with and can enhance other initiatives.
N: Notify all stakeholders of progress. As your implementation gets going, take the time to discuss those short- and long-term goals on a regular basis. Teachers appreciate knowing they have reached benchmarks. As you talk about how your staff is progressing towards meeting goals, generate a conversation regarding what additional support they need to reach those goals. This support might come in the form of quick reviews or coaching visits.
It is so important to keep a new initiative in the forefront of teachers’ minds. Doing so may mean just making it a consistent, scheduled conversation. This can be done regularly at staff meetings, daily conversations, or email blasts. One thing I’ve noticed when consulting to teachers who are implementing our programs is that they simply want to share what they’ve done and the successes they’ve seen. Many of the stories are powerful testaments to positive changes that can happen using Boys Town strategies.
In order for new initiatives to get off the ground and take hold, teacher engagement throughout the process is critical. At the start of your next initiative, be sure to include your teaching staff in the entire process. Doing so will not only help strengthen the implementation but will show teachers, we appreciate them by including them in the initiative conversation.