In every school (or business or neighborhood) there are people who spread gossip. We all know who they are. But of more significance and greater impact are the people who spread compliments. Those are the people to whom professionals are most attracted. They make us feel good. They make the day seem more positive no matter what the challenges may be. Here is the great news. You don’t have to be a supervisor to encourage fellow teachers. In fact in my career I have been most encouraged by other teachers who I admire who notice and mention to me something that I do well. Who have you complimented lately? Why not set a goal of complimenting two teachers per day for every day this week? Take the challenge.
What can make this a little easier? I’ve been in a couple of teaching environments where there was a small stack of notes in the mailroom near teacher mailboxes. These might be Pat-on-the-Back notes, Applause cards, or have a smiley face theme…whatever suits your school theme. When you see them lying there, you can just write a quick note and slip it in someone’s mailbox. When we make it handy we eliminate having to search for a note card or hiking it down to the mailbox area. Any teacher in the building can start the ball rolling. Why not you?
I’ve also heard of building supervisors or district administrative staff members who carry thumbs up sticky notes. They leave these anywhere they see a nice bulletin board or a creative display within the school. It can be a post it note with their name on it or imprinted with a positive theme of any kind. What about a thumbs up sticky note. I currently supervise student teachers at the university level. I like to carry a camera into buildings and take photos (with permission) of wonderful bulletin boards and displays. I take the time to find and compliment the teacher and ask her if I may photograph the board. Teachers are always very complimented that someone noticed and took the time to stop and comment.
Don’t forget to help a young teacher. I had already been a teacher for seven years when my principal asked me to move into a first grade position that became available. I had been teaching third grade since I graduated from college. First grade scared me, but I didn’t really want to mention that to my principal. At that time in my career, teaching very beginning reading seemed like a mystery to me. How did you start from scratch and create a child who could read?
There was a wonderful lady in my building named June Hutzelman who became my mentor. It wasn’t any kind of “official” assignment. My principal thought I could handle this job and didn’t think I needed anyone to help me. Ha! I didn’t want to admit otherwise. June guided me through the first two months. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this now, but what she taught on day one, I taught on day two. Her day two assignments became my day three classroom work. By about mid October, I had the swing of things and I could maneuver on my own. I will be forever indebted to June for taking me under her wing. As a wonderful side benefit, first grade became my favorite grade to teach. I’ve taught preschool through high school seniors and like them all. But that thrill of teaching very beginning reading is matched by no other thrill in teaching in my opinion.
When I left full time teaching to become a college field supervisor of student teachers I gave away all of my collected materials to young future teachers or beginning teachers. I mean I gave away absolutely every plaque, poster, desk item, magnet, bulletin board fabric or border, worksheet, EVERYTHING! At first I thought I couldn’t do it. But as the time neared, It felt better and better to give it all away. They carried away car loads full of items for their classrooms. Two unexpected side benefits came from this. I brought no additional clutter into my house; and when I visit them in their classroom, I can see my stuff still being used with students. It feels just right.
Here’s my favorite idea that I’ve seen in the past couple of years. A former student of mine, Erin Hunkemoeller, who teaches Spanish in the Northmont School District in Clayton Ohio, sent me a copy of a sheet that they call Inspirations. Two or three teachers create this one page sheet together. Every school is full of great teachers with creative ideas. Why not share them? Inspirations is one sheet with three creative ideas that come right out of their classrooms. They describe them briefly and include photos. This strategy affirms great efforts, shares and spreads wonderful ideas and encourages the entire staff. Northmont receives my blue ribbon award for this great idea that is well implemented. They are working together to TEACH…To Change Lives.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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