Saturday / April 13

School Leaders Should Celebrate the Teachers Who Innovate

Leaders who make the most far-reaching impact have a knack for empowering the people on their team. Those who feel valued and encouraged produce more high quality work. In education, this means leaders who empower teachers and students are helping to build a culture of excellence and positivity in their school. The cultural benefits will happen quickly.

  • You’ll see more teaching and learning. When teachers find out they will be celebrated, even informally, they will be eager to invite you to see their classes and share their ideas with you. You’ll find yourself in more classrooms and you’ll get to know your students and faculty better.
  • Teacher collaboration will increase. They will hear about the creative and innovative practices of their colleagues through you. Too often, educators don’t even know about the great things happening in the classroom next door. When they find out, teachers will be more likely to cheer on and support one another.
  • Build parent enthusiasm. Of course, parents will be more excited about what their children are doing at school when updates appear in their email or social media feed. When the community has a window into your school everyday, they will be more involved and supportive.
  • Connect with students more often. The students see you more and hear your excitement as you participate in their learning in their classrooms. Imagine the connections.
  • Innovation will abound. It will take time. Months. Maybe even a year or two. But you will find that teachers will start trying instructional techniques never before seen in your school. They’ll tell you about their excitement. They’ll feel valued and encouraged.

Instant Celebrations with Social Media

One easy way to empower your teachers is by sharing little victories from around your school. Do it publically. Thanks to social media, there are easy instant ways to do this:

  • Photos with Instagram: Post a photo you snap with your phone in a classroom if you catch something awesome happening. Just be sure you’ve obtained the required permissions from the parents of the students who might be in the shot.
  • Soundbites with Twitter: Hear a great soundbite or quote from a teacher or student? Type it, tag them, and Tweet it out. Even better, use an app like Canva or Phonto to create a word graphic. Tweets with images attached seem to get more interaction on Twitter.
  • Good News with Facebook: Don’t discount Facebook. It is still the platform that has the most users. Create a school Facebook page and post often with everyday good news from classrooms, sports fields, and rehearsals. This is usually the best way to reach parents.

If your teachers have professional accounts on these platforms, be sure to tag them. You might want to create a school hashtag so they can post good news themselves! Just be sure to monitor the hashtag and the comments on your posts so you can be sure the conversation stays as positive as possible. Looking for examples? Tony Sinanis, Lead Learner at Cantiague Elementary, is a pro at this. Check out his Instagram for photos from the classroom every school day.

Celebrations With More Oomph

Celebrations that deserve a little more detail and attention can happen through a blog, podcast, newsletter, school newspaper or magazine. Here are examples.

  • A quiet teacher is doing something great: One of our religious studies teachers has been using Minecraft to teach the story of Noah’s Ark. It’s really an amazing learning experience for his students. The thing is, almost no one knew. So when the folks at EdSurge were looking to talk with teachers using the tool, I connected that teacher with them. The result is that his lesson was featured on their podcast. Now more people at our school (and beyond!) know about his innovative project and a few others have tried their own spin on it with their students.
  • Bring attention to a positive pattern: Teachers from all over our school are using formative assessment to give their students feedback fast and more often. It is changing teaching and learning for the better. These educators didn’t even know about one another, though. So, with an article in the school’s biannual magazine, my colleagues and I brought them together. Not only has the article built bridges between grade levels and content areas, digital formative assessment has caught on even faster since it was published.
  • A teacher steps outside her comfort zone: This fall our incredibly talented middle school theater arts teacher has been bringing the best out of our students. But during some professional development in the summer she admitted to being a bit uncomfortable with iPads and technology in the classroom. Well, once the year got going she took a risk and let the kids use their iPads to create presentations. The results blew her away. She was excited to share and deserved to be celebrate. So, I asked her to write a guest post for my professional blog. She was thrilled and has really embraced the tech ever since.

Want to see more examples? Visit the Burlington Public Schools Blog edited by Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin. He posts almost daily about great teaching and learning, but also has lots of guest posts from educators all over his district. It’s contagious too! Look on the right side of the screen and see the long list of blogs from teachers all over his district.

Keep Privacy in Mind

Generally, the more public the celebration the better. The teacher will know you think his or her work is worth sharing and great instructional practices will spread. But remember that some educators might not want their picture posted online. If students are in the shot, parent permissions are required as well. Be sure everyone involved knows their likeness and work is being shared before hitting the ‘post’ or ‘publish’ button. Let the students and teachers see what you are going to share before you share it. Not only will you be building a culture of innovative instruction, you’ll be setting an example as a leader of digital citizenship and sound privacy practices.

Written by

Kerry Gallagher is a Technology Integration Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. She taught middle and high school history in BYOD schools for 13 years and her classes were paperless. She received the 2014 Yale-Lynn Hall Teacher Action Research Prize and is a 2015 PBS Digital Innovator. Kerry writes for EdSurge, Smarter Schools Project, ConnectSafely among other online publications. She holds a B.A. from St. Anselm College and a J.D. from Massachusetts School of Law. Find Kerry on Twitter @KerryHawk02 and on her website Start with a Question.

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