Top tips for empowering your teachers

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is ​a retired educator in Ottawa area. He has a keen interest in promoting technology as a progressive learning tool among the students in his school. ​Paul is active on Twitter (@mcguirp) and blogs on all sorts of topics, including climbing (climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in April​), mental health, politics, a wide variety of education topics and anything else that comes to mind. His blog is called 'Whole Hearted', taken from the author and researcher Brené Brown, whom he admires greatly.​ Paul loves writing for Innovate My School and connecting to other writers and educators whenever possible.

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If you’re a member or school leadership or administration, there are so many things to consider, but really, the first thing should be the welfare of the teachers at your school. How do you do this? Well, how often is this a topic for discussion among administrators? Not hardly enough. The fact is, there are very few people in a school whose main job is really to ensure that teachers are well supported and cared for. The principal or headteacher is at the top of this list.

So as we head into another school year, here are some things that all administrators should consider first.

How do you share your decision-making power with your staff?

A very wise principal once told me that as administrators, we have very little power. We can have influence in our schools, but that is about it. This may go against conventional wisdom that the principal steers the ship and has the most to do with getting those all-important top student scores on testing.

What we should be looking for are ways to empower our teachers by giving them real power to make decisions that affect the school.

This is not as difficult as it sounds. Why not, for example, allow your staff to put together the monthly meeting agenda using a shared Google doc? Why not use Google Forms to regularly survey your staff on ways to move forward as a staff?

New ways of delivering professional development

Why not allow teachers to develop and implement their own professional development plans?

This last point needs a bit of elaboration. It seems like forever that those in positions of authority have decided for us what we all need to know. We are educational professionals but we are forced to endure countless ‘sit and get’ sessions. I know administrators don’t like this, so why not structure a system where we do not do this to our staff?

While it is a good idea to set the tone for the year’s learning, it is more important to give all teachers the resources - mainly time - to explore what they want to learn. We focused on digital integration last year, but the teachers were all given release time"It is important to give all teachers the resources - mainly time - to explore what they want to learn." during the day to explore a variety of digital tools we were considering using for students.

Specifically, we polled teachers on a variety of digital programs to explore. Once we had our list, we asked each company to provide training materials or webinars we could use to familiarise ourselves with the programs. Once we has done this, each teacher was assigned release time to explore one or more of the programs we were investigating. This resulted in a much higher confidence level among the staff when implementing digital technology in their classrooms.

Finally, make your list

Take a few minutes to consider what are the things you really need to control at your school. I would like to think that the more experienced you are the less absolutes exist, your list gets shorter and, as a consequence, your teachers feel empowered and free to try new things.

I am amazed at the difference this can make to a school. Duties that used to be the sole responsibility of the principal like scheduling and supervision schedules have been assumed by staff members. The wonderful thing is with so many minds working on the same complex problems, the final outcome is always much better for everyone, especially the students.

Do you use such tactics? Let us know below!

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