- Motivating educators with achievable goals, as well as the time and space to build peer connections and collaborate, plays an important role in developing strong school culture and reducing staff stress, Edutopia reports.
- Researchers like Visible Learning's John Hattie believe when teachers buy into a shared sense of efficacy, the impact on learning is even more powerful than students’ socioeconomic status. On the other hand, disconnection, isolation and feeling powerless reduces morale and increases the rate of burnout.
- Teachers need time for planning and reflection, so blocks of time should be built into the schedule for this as well as more generalized breaks. Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville, for example, has a "tap-in/tap-out" system allowing teachers to call for help when they need quick breaks.
Despite all the challenges school closures created, the pandemic also opened an opportunity for school leaders to reconfigure their management strategies and reflect on their purpose. Empathy, a focus on equity and efforts to develop trust among teachers are critical components of strong school culture. It’s also important for leaders to allow themselves to admit they don’t always have the answers in this fast-shifting climate.
Making efforts to avoid judgment is crucial to lead with empathy, especially during uncertain times. Understanding a staff member or student's backstory, for instance, can allow an administrator to make smarter decisions that improve outcomes rather than compounding stress.
Using a positive voice — listening as much as talking, keeping tone in mind and being intentional about how questions are asked — can also create a strong school culture by building a "climate of trust" that inspires educators from a standpoint that what they do every day makes a positive impact on the lives of their students.
Additionally, working to eliminate microaggressions can make significant strides toward a more equitable school culture. Microaggressions are defined as everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to individuals based on their “group membership.” To build a culture free of racism, school leaders should lay out expectations and values that clearly define microaggressions, while also creating a culture that encourages questions, curiosity and growth in the form of “microaffirmations” that subtly reinforce that those from underrepresented groups are important.