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Getting Down and Dirty to Motivate Post-Pandemic Teachers

We’ve all seen the memes, posts and IG’s about how teachers need the motivation to teach post-covid and “mid-year” when kids are checked out…how they are “overwhelmed” and how administrators just don't understand the day to day challenges that they are facing.

As a school administrators we have three roads to take:

  1. Tell the staff that it “Is What it Is” during a staff meeting and offer some inspirational pep talk, treats, breakfast, coffee.

  2. Do Nothing..which is actually a tried and true approach…sometimes

  3. Get Down and Dirty

So what does Down and Dirty mean?

As an administrator, you get the “How long have you been out of the classroom” question a lot. Well, the staff doesn’t actually SAY that, but you can read the body language during the post conferences, walk-throughs and staff meetings. But here’s the thing…you may have been out of the classroom, but you have had the opportunity/pleasure/blessing of visiting classrooms and seeing outstanding teaching..and not-so-outstanding teaching. Quite frankly, if you went back to the classroom, you’ve seen so many exemplars of good AND bad teaching, that you would probably be the Teacher of the Year in no time flat. After all, good teaching is the result of creativity, collaboration and stealing good ideas from colleagues to institute best practices.

So in order to motivate your staff, you need to get down and dirty. Here are a few examples:

1- Put your money where your mouth is!

Tell your staff that you would like to spend a period teaching one of their classes. Sounds scary, right? But showing staff that you have what it takes to deliver an effective lesson that is differentiated to meet the needs of all of the students where all students are engaged and successful, is exactly what is needed to show them you have what it takes. If your staff is too large, have a drawing or contest to pick 5 classes to teach. Perhaps plan on this long term, right along with classroom walk-throughs. Doing so will demonstrate your ability to put your money where your mouth is…and at the same time allow you to be vulnerable to accept the challenges that you expect your staff to conquer.

2- Be real!

Take the time to talk to your staff about WHY they feel “overwhelmed”. Create focus groups after surveying your staff about the climate/culture/morale in the building. The surveys can be informal by walking down the hall in the morning or after school OR sending out an e-survey. Ask the hard questions like exactly what the staff is feeling overwhelmed about, what are the barriers to effective teaching and what do they feel is the #1 reason for lack of motivation. Asking real questions, asking the staff to reflect on their status…sometimes, that’s enough for staff to realize what they are feeling is normal and that “this too shall pass”. It is also informing YOU as the administrator/supervisor what the pulse of the staff feels like.

3- Understand that this is NORMAL…for now…

In our post- pandemic world, we are realizing what worked (for years) and what didn’t. We are seeing that some of our staff are stuck in the pandemic stage and would benefit from some hand holding that less online learning (Ed Puzzles, Kahoot, Go Guardian) and more in person connections (small group instruction, physical check ins, one on one conferencing) are the key to academic success. Blended learning is now the norm…and we, as administrators, need to set the bar for the right balance of each.

It’s time to have these hard conversations with our staff. Ignoring the reality will only expand the rift between teaching and administrations..and that is a slippery slope. Opening the lines of communication, meeting teachers where they are with the goal of leveling up and being vulnerable when asking the hard questions makes for a transparent and feed-forward school/department.

Take some time as a former teacher and current administrator to ponder these ideas. Is my staff stuck in pandemic mode? How do I assess what they need to become motivated at any time of the school year? How can I use my skills as an administrator to motivate my staff? As an administrator, you would never ask your staff to do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do. Here is your chance to accept the challenge and get down and dirty!

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