Saturday, September 10, 2011

Supporting Teachers Who Wear Multiple Hats

As in many schools, our teachers "wear many hats."  Teachers, obviously, teach their classes.  In addition, most do at least 3 or 4 of the following:
  • monitor study halls
  • coach athletic teams
  • sponsor clubs
  • perform before/after/lunch duties
  • hold tutorial sessions
  • serve as a student advisor
  • assist with theatre performances
A number of these teachers also work in more than one division of the school (lower: PS-5th, middle: 6-8, and upper: 9-12), mostly crossing between middle and upper school.

In our middle school ,we have various conversations and meetings scheduled each month.  These include division wide meetings, grade level conversations, and advisor meetings.  With all of these moving parts, leading a division and supporting the teachers in that division can become a little hectic at times.

As a school leader, one of your top responsibilities is to support the teachers in your area.  When teachers cross divisions and/or are pulled in different directions, school leaders must be ready to support their teachers with empathy and provide guidance that helps alleviate the teachers anxiety while demonstrating that your priorities are aligned with the teacher's.

One great way to do this is to clearly articulate what the priorities must be and then take action based on those priorities.  Once you do so, when teachers come to you with issues of schedule conflicts, you are prepared to provide clear and consistent advice and support.  For my division, I advise teachers to use the following priority list:
  1. Teach your class
  2. Hold your tutorial session
  3. Advise your student advisees
  4. Coach your team (or guide your theatre production as the case may be)
  5. Lead your club
  6. Monitor your study hall
It is important to point out that all of those functions are essential.  The suggestion is based on a simple guiding question - What function is most difficult to assign to another person for a day?  I routinely will support cross over teachers by filling in for them.  In the example above, it is easier (and more appropriate) for me to monitor a study hall than it is to hold a tutorial session for a class.

Teachers experiencing scheduling conflicts or who are serving multiple areas are valuable to the operation of the school.  Sometimes these teachers need the support of school leaders by reminding them that it is 'ok' to prioritize and ask for help.  As the school leader, make sure you take time to remind teachers that you are on the same page and are ready to provide support where needed.
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