While I was at dinner, I heard someone in the restaurant, obviously a teacher, talking to a friend in line. I heard her reply, but context leads me to believe it was the question every teacher is hearing now.
“Are you about ready for school to start?”
The teacher, replied back, “yes, I’m excited to get back to the kids and to have a routine, but I’ll miss my summer! We go back next week.”
So, if your teachers haven’t returned to school yet, they’re thinking about it. And others are asking them about it.
For you as the school leader, it’s a time you should be excited about. These teachers are your stars; they are the ones who will lead your students to discovery, to curiosity, to knowledge. You should be as excited for them to return to you as the parents are to send their children back to you and your teachers.
As you prepare for their return, here are Ten Things To Remember about their return to school.
- Help All Your Teachers Get Off To An Inspired Start. You can tell them all of the rules they’ll ever need to know on the first day you have them back, or you can get them excited about what they do and the promise of a new year. Which method leads to instructional success?
- Teach your teachers what you want them to know; don’t just tell them. It’s easy for you to look at the list of things you want your teachers to know, and the short time you have them to yourself and to try to tell them too much. Does it really serve you (or them) well for you to try to cover more things than they can digest? The school year lasts a while; you don’t really need to tell them everything at once.
- Together, Design a Great First Day With Students. What one thing do you want your teachers to focus on in preparation for their first day with their students? If you take your time with them to prepare them for that goal, will the beginning of school go smoothly? Are you clear in your description of what you want the first days with students to be? Painting that picture is important if you want your expectations to be met. Taking the time to get the FDOS (First Day of School) right will pay dividends all year long.
- Atmosphere Contributes to Performance. If your first days with your teachers seem rushed, over-scheduled, and full of tension, that will set a tone that you may not mean to set. What if you and your administrative team met your teachers as they entered the school on the first day? Giving them high-fives and fist bumps like you’d like them to do when their students arrive? If you model this, would it be more impactful than if you merely told them?
- Define the Focus for the Year. Recently, I heard some nice, wonderful school leaders tell their faculty what the focus would be for the upcoming year. They then unveiled a powerpoint presentation for over an hour and shared Fourteen Areas of Focus for the upcoming year!!! My expectations for their success are… very guarded. If you tell your team fourteen things are important, they may not actually focus on the one that really is the most important. Please don’t say ‘priority’ if you don’t mean it.
- Give Your Teachers Space and Time to Connect with Each Other. Your teachers will be working together, collaboratively, this year. Don’t forget to give them time to connect and build trust with each other during the first days of school.
- Give Special Attention To Your New Teachers. Who on your administrative team will advocate for each of the new teachers on your staff? Sure, they have a faculty mentor, but on your team, who will shepherd each of them through the first days? If you are checking in on them (in person) a couple of times each day during pre-planning and the first days, you’ll set the tone that you aren’t going to leave their success to chance and that you are going to be there for them.
- Be Rested and Ready for the Teachers’ First Day. Here’s an idea worthy of your consideration: do all of the planning for your teachers’ return, and on the night before they arrive, get refreshed for the next day. (Exercise, walk, do something non-school; then get a good night’s sleep) Before you start shaking your head “NO!”, hear me out, please: You have to stop your preparation for the teachers’ return sometime. Stop it with enough time to get yourself to your best as they arrive. If you are full of energy that first day, you set the tone in a good way. If you are dragging on their first day, it’ll do the opposite.
- Focus on the Good. Chances are that most of what you plan for the teachers’ first day will go well… but chances are something may not go as you planned. This is a time when your teachers will see how you respond in such a scenario. Is it better for them to see you adapt gracefully or to respond fretfully to the unplanned or unexpected? If the food for breakfast arrives later than you planned, you can let it ruin your day, or you can keep your focus on the good. And there’s lots of good on the first day for teachers.
- Take Time for Your People. Will your school get off to a better start with you getting around the building and seeing all of your people on their first day(s) back? How you spend your time on those first days shows others your focus, and the winning hand in school leadership is always a focus on leading your teachers.