14 Tips for Principals to Motivate Teachers
Motivating teachers to power through the tough times is essential to your school's success. Among a principal's many responsibilities is the incredibly important task of encouraging and building up their teachers so that they can face and overcome any obstacle they encounter. The best way to make good teachers stay is to provide the support and motivation they need to do their job, and it's easy to tell your educators that they have your full support.
Ways Principals Motivate Teachers
A 2020 study showed that a principal's ability to positively lead and motivate their teachers directly impacts retention. If you want to keep good teachers, you have to make them want to stay. There are a million little ways to encourage your teachers, but if you want to know how to motivate teachers, it all comes down to 14 simple steps.
1. Be Available
Your primary role as a school administrator is to do whatever it takes to free up your teachers to teach. Talk to them. Find out what they're struggling with, what's falling through the cracks and what they could use help with. Ask what your teachers want in a principal. Then, with their permission, jump in and help. It could be something as simple as returning books to the school library after a class is through with them. Or, it could be something more time-consuming, such as working through a conflict with a parent.
The key here is to ask your teachers how you can help them. If you just start doing stuff, they may think you're micromanaging or watching them so that you can critique them later. Set their minds at ease by communicating your desire to support their day-to-day activities. While you may not be able to change things like class size, limited funding or student behavior, you can offer your teachers a listening ear.
It may be counterproductive to have an open-door policy, so consider instituting office hours. Set certain hours each day or each week when your teachers know your door is open. They can stop by to talk about whatever is on their mind — a new idea, questions about lesson planning, requests for new equipment or concerns about a student. When your teachers know you're available and listening to them, they'll be more likely to help when you ask or take on a new task when the need arises.
2. Give Them Praise
Take the time to call attention to a teacher who has gone above and beyond. Sure, this can be done via email, but making a public gesture of thanks goes a long way toward making a teacher feel good about themselves. Take a few minutes at each staff meeting to mention a few teachers who've contributed in a special way in the last month or two. Send out an email of thanks after a group of teachers has organized an event or program that was successful.
That being said, don't get so focused on praising the individual that you forget to thank others around them. Make a point to organize "thank you" breakfasts or lunches for departments or all the teachers to show thanks for all of their hard work.
3. Encourage Teachers to Motivate Each Other
Even in a smaller school, you can't be everywhere at once. Teachers see and hear things that you don't. So get them involved in developing their own activities to motivate and reward colleagues for a job well done. Implement a "Teacher of the Month" system where teachers vote for one colleague who has gone above and beyond. Or, implement a pay-it-forward system where you celebrate one teacher for his efforts, then that teacher selects another teacher to honor the next month.
Another great way to keep educators motivated is to pair older, more experienced teachers with new ones in a teacher-to-teacher mentorship program. The program can encourage the more experienced educators to provide advice and support to people who are just entering the field. Organize the program and keep an eye on the pairings to make sure that both teachers are benefiting from their connection.
4. Support Your Teacher in Front of Parents
As an administrator, a large part of your job is dealing with student conflicts. Often, this will involve parents. In some cases, a child may be struggling in a class, and their parent is worried. In other cases, a student may have started a fight in the hallway or stolen something from another student. Whatever the case may be, it's highly likely that you and the teacher will have several conversations with that student's parents.
Sometimes parents become very defensive about their children, and they may become angry and frustrated with you or the teacher. No matter what is said, when you are talking with a student or parent, you should support the initial actions your teacher took to correct the situation. Your job is to support your teachers, and it starts by having their back when it's against the wall. If the teacher didn't handle the situation well, discuss privately what they could have done differently.
5. Host Social Events Outside of School
When you know someone on a personal level, it's easier to understand what makes them tick. You can better see how their strengths and weaknesses shape their abilities in the workplace. Make a point to organize — and attend — social events outside of school hours. Host a holiday party for the teachers at your home or a local restaurant. Organize an end-of-the-year barbecue at your neighborhood pool. When you take the time to get to know your teachers and even their families, you build a stronger relationship that will translate into more motivation in the workplace.
Spending time together outside of school can also go a long way in understanding the individual personalities of each person on your staff. You learn a lot by meeting someone's child or spouse. You can gain a lot of knowledge about someone by learning something as simple as where they grew up. Even Christmas party small talk can go a long way toward providing your teachers with emotional support during the toughest weeks at school.
6. Include Teachers in Strategic Planning
Teachers want their students to learn. So they have a vested interest in school reforms and changes that help students learn better. When teachers are given the chance to offer input and guidance toward shaping school policy, they often feel more motivated in their teaching and participation within the school. This can be especially important if you're in a school that's looking to improve student achievement, but it rings true just about anywhere.
It's also a good idea to keep teachers in the loop about what's going on at the district level, especially if there are a lot of new policies coming to a vote that will affect them later on. In some cases, they may have seen news coverage about controversial issues, which makes it even more important to include them in school-level discussions when possible.
And, in some cases, it's a good idea to encourage them to speak up and make their voices heard with the local school board. If there is an issue that can't be addressed at the school level, there's nothing wrong with helping your teachers advocate for themselves and their students. In fact, a good principal can guide their advocacy in a way that's reasonable and respectful.
7. Create a Mentoring Program
Although teachers can — and should — be encouraged to motivate each other, there's also a lot to be said for a principal providing mentoring to their teachers as well. Mentoring provides significant motivation for teachers because it guides them toward a stronger and more successful teaching career. To do this, a principal must always be learning.
A good principal stays abreast of the latest educational theories and practices and then shares them with their teachers in a way that's helpful and practical to implement. In some cases, you may look for ways to mentor teachers one-on-one. However, it's probably more practical to work with small groups, such as during teacher staff meetings or in short exchanges with the various departments in your school.
That being said, you don't have to lead after-school seminars about educational theory or spend hours pouring over the latest publications. A good principal works smarter, not harder. Remember those newer teachers in your school? They've probably just come from university classrooms where they were introduced to educational theories your veteran teachers may not be as familiar with. Tap those newcomers to share their knowledge with their colleagues during a staff meeting. The point of a principal-teacher mentorship isn't to sit down face-to-face with every teacher every week. It's to find ways to help each teacher find the knowledge and support they need to enable them to do their job well.
8. Respect Their Time
One of the best ways you can motivate your teachers is by showing them that you respect their time during and after school. If you can avoid scheduling meetings or professional development workshops during report card or final exam weeks, your teachers will appreciate your respect for them and feel less stress about all that they need to accomplish. Don't pile on extra paperwork during standardized testing week. Recognize that there are just certain times of the school year that are stressful. The last thing your teachers need is to feel like you don't understand that.
So, rather than adding more to their plate, stop and ask how you can make things easier. Make a coffee run during a teacher's workday or set up donuts in the teacher's lounge. Lend a hand grading papers or setting up testing when you can. Another important way to respect your teachers' time is to encourage organization. Even in this digital age, encourage your teachers to keep a detailed daily calendar so that they can keep track of their time and their responsibilities. There are a lot of benefits to using a traditional paper planner, including a greater chance that they'll remember what they need to do!
9. Give Thank You Gifts
While it's important to tighten the school budget where you can, consider setting aside a small amount of money each year for teacher gifts. When a teacher goes above and beyond — giving up their planning period to cover a sick teacher's class or organizing a school-wide food drive — show your appreciation with a small gift, such as a $5 Starbucks card or a small bag of chocolates.
The point is to show your team that their hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. If the school budget won't allow for tangible gifts, then get creative. When a teacher goes above and beyond, hand them a coupon that offers to cover one class period within the semester. When they cash in on it, you agree to spend the period with their class. Although it's not a day off or a monetary reward, there's not a teacher out there who wouldn't relish an extra planning period or extended lunch once in a while. And the thought of earning an hour of free time may become a great motivator among your teachers!
10. Allow Them to Take Breaks
Breaks are vital for productivity. Working straight through the school day is challenging, and your teachers may be struggling to find the motivation to finish the day strong. Minor distractions or mental breaks can play a large role in keeping your teachers motivated. You could encourage teachers to take a short walk outside before or after lunch, listen to a podcast during a free period, stretch or meditate. You could even purchase adult coloring books and encourage teachers to color when they feel stressed or anxious.
11. Encourage Collaboration
Collaboration is a great way to introduce teachers to new techniques and teaching methods and give them the opportunity to praise and ask for advice from other teachers. You could create routine meetings for teachers to attend or encourage teachers to visit other classrooms to evaluate methods in person. Doing so could help teachers learn new ways to lower their stress, discover efficient grading methods and gain insight into how to display information.
You could further encourage collaboration by leaving a box outside each classroom so teachers can write tips and words of encouragement for each other. You can then read these notes at meetings so your teachers know that you and their other coworkers appreciate their efforts.
12. Recognize Key Stress Times
Exams and report cards can be highly stressful for teachers to complete. On top of holiday seasons and their end-of-the-semester or year work, these times of the year are busy and sometimes frantic. During these times, it's essential to help your teachers where you can. You can reduce the amount of paperwork they need to complete, offer to grade papers and assignments, cover a class and shorten meetings. You can show your staff that you respect their time and become the helping hand they need to transition through the year.
13. Give Teachers a Voice
Including your teachers in your decision-making will motivate them to stay involved and help them feel included. Teachers are the school members your students interact with the most, and they likely have a few tips and tricks that you can use to create an even better academic environment.
You can ask your teachers what they found worked well in the previous year, what could be improved, what steps the administration can take to support them better and how the school can improve initiatives. Additionally, you could create a suggestion box, invite a representative from each grade level to participate in board meetings and include teachers when voting on new policies and changes.
14. Encourage Professional Development
Even if your district requires teachers to meet certain professional development requirements, it's a good idea to look for ways to go beyond those. You can help teachers find relevant courses, workshops or conferences to attend outside of school. Make a point to get information and present it to teachers through emails or during staff meetings. Beyond providing them with the information, you can also approve their requests to attend these programs by offering financial assistance and approving travel away from school when needed.
You could also implement a learning program and offer monetary rewards. For example, you could create an account with an audiobook site and download professional materials for teachers to listen to. Encourage them to take notes and write a short report about what they learned. After they complete so many books, offer them a gift card, buy their lunch or give them a small bonus.
Motivate Your Teachers With Planners
When it comes to motivating teachers — and their students — organization is a key to success. Planners are a crucial tool for educators and students. With a planner, you can organize lesson plans, assignments, deadlines and events. When you're juggling all of those things at the same time, you need a place to put all the information and refer back to it whenever you need it.
Although many teachers and students opt for digital planners, Success By Design continues to stand by the traditional paper planner as an essential classroom tool for students and educators alike. When you take the time to write something down, you're more likely to remember it later. If you remember it later, then you're more likely to complete the task or show up to the event you wrote down in the first place.
Teachers who write things down are more successful in the classroom, and students who write things down achieve more academically. Browse our selection of planners, and get your school organized today.
- Tags: Administrator Resources
- SBD, Inc.