Sunday, October 13, 2019

Kim Frencken: Keeping teachers happy

How do you keep teachers happy? Is it giving them donuts in the break room? Or what about a treat with their pay stub? Or maybe it is pizza delivery on parent-teacher conference night?

While all of these would be appreciated, they aren't the key to keeping teachers happy. Keeping teachers happy is pretty simple. It goes beyond the "treat with respect and professionalism" that should be a given.

1. Give teachers an option on school calendars. Let them have a couple of options to choose from and then go with the majority vote. Let them have a say-so on whether or not they will have a week off in the spring or long week-ends. Let them decide which week is the best for parent conferences. Yes, I know that some things are set in stone and cannot be changed, but giving teachers an opportunity to have a little input goes a long way.

2. Jeans day. Or days. There is something about getting up and grabbing a pair of jeans and pulling on a school shirt that puts a spring in your step. Maybe it's the tennis shoes. Maybe it is the fact that you are more comfortable and aren't going to worry, as much, about getting on the floor and getting dirty. You feel a little more in touch with your students. Jeans just seem to make the day get off to a good start.

3. Using PD time wisely. Don't waste time. Make it meaningful and useful. Not fluff. No one likes to waste time. And don't bleed into personal time. When the clock strikes quitting time, end the meeting. At that point, nothing anyone says in a meeting is more important than picking up your child or getting home to start supper.

4. Smaller class sizes. That matters. A lot. It may mean hiring a couple more staff members, but it is well worth it. Teachers will love you forever. Smaller class sizes usually (not always) mean less discipline issues, more opportunity for forming relationships, and more engagement in lessons. I could go on and on about the importance of keeping class size small, but just trust me on this. One of the biggest complaint teachers have is..... large class sizes.

5. Listen. Really listen. To the good and the bad. Without forming judgements or getting upset. Teachers are human. We need to vent. Someone who won't judge us when we're down. Someone who doesn't try to advise or facilitate. Someone who gives our ideas a moment or two to shine (or maybe is willing to let us try them). Just a listening ear.

Keeping teachers happy is pretty simple. Little things that say a lot. And you know what they say about happy teachers??? A happy teacher has happy students and is less likely to look for better opportunities.
(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational writing check out her blog Chocolate For the Teacher.)

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