Conversations with member schools have revealed consistent themes as school leaders look ahead to ‘21-’22. As schools reopen, heal, rebuild, and redesign in the coming year, teachers will need four key supports, in the form of Validation, Celebration, Care and Attention, and Collaboration. In order to support teachers, school leaders might look toward these common themes to build a roadmap for success.
All humans need to be heard, seen, and understood. In considering The Magic of Validation, Jennifer Gonzalez (Cult of Pedagogy) offers a powerful three-step process toward creating a culture of validation. She suggests that validation comes when we “Reflect the Content; Acknowledge the Emotion; and, Communicate Acceptance.” As school leaders reflect on the ways they might provide validation to their faculty, consider turning to this model of validation as teachers share their stories. In regularly scheduled meetings to connect on growth, perhaps the conversation turns to simply being with the faculty member in whatever they are facing? To validate is to see and to be validated is to be seen in an authentic way. With the emotional challenges that have come with teaching in ‘20-’21 and its well-documented effects on teacher mental health, take time to validate emotions — reflect what you hear, acknowledge its validity, and communicate your acceptance.
Sharing Validation with myFolio: Use the Conversation and Observation Notes to track your discussions with faculty. To provide validation, consider framing your Conversation Notes around the framework above: reflect, acknowledge, and communicate acceptance.
To celebrate is to create a space for public acknowledgement of successes. Workplace cultures thrive when there is deliberate space created for public/social recognition. Work Human has done tremendous research into the “Return on Investment of Social Recognition” and the value of employee appreciation. As individuals in your community lean into the power of celebration, it can have a “snowball effect” as celebrations ripple throughout the community.
Fostering Celebration with myFolio: The Spotlight feature is a wonderful way to share a celebration privately with another faculty member. Consider trying a “Spotlight-a-Palooza” to get your celebrations going! If you are looking for more public ways to celebrate individual or collective “wins, consider using your school’s myFolio Community Feed to publicly acknowledge all the things that are going well!
Care and Attention
Teachers need care and attention to both their personal and professional triumphs and challenges. During regular check-ins and goals conversations with faculty, consider taking time to provide care and attention to both aspects. Marcus Buckingham shares a powerful framework for frequent professional check-in conversations. Buckingham suggests that supervisors frequently ask: “What are your priorities this week? And, how can I help?” Supervisors can frame responses to these questions in Folio conversations with faculty/staff, grounding professional check-ins toward a teacher’s defined goals for growth.
At the same time, while it is critical that school leaders check in on a teacher’s professional growth and progress toward goals, it is important that they do not dismiss the personal attention and care that teachers need. In this Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez has a conversation with Angela Watson about teacher self-care and how difficult it can be for teachers to create and sustain a workable “work-life balance.” This difficulty makes it all the more important for school leaders to take a visible role in shepherding care and attention to faculty. With this in mind, it is important to take the time in conversations to ask teachers: “How are you, really?”
Supporting Care and Attention with myFolio: Similar to validation, school leaders should use Conversation and Observation Notes to reflect on these discussions. The Mindful Minute feature is another way to get a temperature check on your whole faculty either as a part of regular faculty meetings or as an exit ticket from a faculty meeting. Simply by giving teachers time to briefly reflect on successes and challenges of the past week, and allowing them to select an emoticon to match how they are feeling, gives them an opportunity to share how they are really doing. If a school leader sees an abundance of stress and stressful emotions in the Mindful Minute, it might be an indication that a full faculty care and attention check-in is needed.
Collaboration is critical to school-wide professional growth. Folio recently released a whitepaper, in partnership with the EE Ford Foundation and the the McDonogh School, highlighting the core elements of a collaborative culture. This paper notes that collaborative cultures need to be intentionally fostered in a school community, writing: “The highly-collaborative organizations we visited did not cross their fingers and hope for collaboration; they intentionally designed their use of space, time, and team structure in order to create formal and informal collaborative opportunities.”
Supporting Collaboration with myFolio: Schools can encourage peer-to-peer collaboration around growth using myFolio Workspaces or by connecting peers as Collaborators in professional growth work (either in addition to or in place of a supervisor). These myFolio features provide structured ways to enhance school-based collaboration around goals and growth as they allow teachers to observe, share notes and feedback, and have structured goals-focused conversations.
There are also opportunities for collaboration in myFolio around the definition and articulation of school-wide professional growth themes — consider inviting all of your faculty/staff members to engage in a discussion about what the school’s professional growth themes should be in the coming year. Finally, explore the myFolio Community Feed as another opportunity for collaboration. School leaders can model a practice of sharing resources and articles on the Community Feed that are intended to benefit all faculty and staff. This allows the Community Feed to be a resource for common texts and readings that enhance everyone’s growth.
Making It Happen Strategically
Underlying all of these important elements is the need to build time into the schedule for this work. In order for schools to build cultures that attend to these four topics, school leaders must deliberately construct schedules that reflect these values. Schools cannot push collaboration, care and attention, celebration, and validation into the evenings and weekends. Rather, there must be both modeling and a deliberate effort to cultivate opportunities to embrace this work during the traditional school day.
It might be helpful for school leaders to consider a framework like the Eisenhower Matrix. Validation, Celebration, Care and Attention, and Collaboration are not urgent matters, yet they are all very important to the overall health of a school and a faculty. This type of framework can help a leader focus on what really matters — to move from feeling like someone who puts out fires to someone who works to prevent them before they begin.
Image from https://slab.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/