By Michael Iannini, Education Management Consultant and CIS Affiliated Consultant
The breaks we take during the summer, winter and mid-semester are vital for reinvigorating our own and our colleagues’ spirit and passion for teaching when school resumes.
As middle level leaders, we can help our teams leave for the holidays with some peace of mind and more likely to return for the new term feeling reinvigorated—despite the ongoing pandemic, the anxiety it may cause, and the impact it may have on our holidays.
Giving the gift of peace of mind
The way that middle leaders in particular use their time between now and the close of the term can greatly impact their colleagues’ well-being as they enter their respective term breaks.
In this post, I ask middle leaders to give their colleagues the best parting gift they can—peace of mind.
Three things middle leaders can do
Here are three things that middle leaders can do now to give their colleagues peace of mind before the end of the term:
- Acknowledge hardships that team members have had to endure, both professional and personal
- Give team members an opportunity to be heard
- Debrief team performance.
I advocate for middle leaders to take the lead with this incredibly important mission because they are closest to our educator teams working directly with students.
They not only have to navigate a myriad of emotions and conflicts within their own teams but are themselves also much in need of achieving peace of mind.
Middle leaders will also have a much greater appreciation for how the relationship dynamics on their teams will change, especially with close colleagues transitioning out of the team and/or school.
So, if you are a middle leader, how can you achieve the outcomes of (1) acknowledging team member contributions, (2) giving them the opportunity to be heard and (3) using this as an opportunity for professional growth?
This can be done in as little as 45-minutes during a team planning meeting or by meeting with team members individually and then sharing what you learned from those conversations in a planning meeting.
In both cases, team members will have a chance to affirm the feelings and experiences of others, be heard, and reflect on how they can be more supportive of team members at the start of the new term.
Three questions you can ask
Here are three questions you can use to realize the three objectives stated above:
- What have we done well, and need to continue doing, as a team to support each other over the course of this term/year?
- How might we have better supported each other to see through the challenges we faced this term/year?
- How can any team we serve on be better capacity built to ensure more proactive support of its members?
The first question invites a positive mindset and the responses to this question will enable us to probe about specific challenges or hardships team members faced.
The second question invites a solutions mindset. It solicits ideas for practical measures that a team can take to support its members.
The third question provides an opportunity to test the practical measures raised in the previous question as to how they can be implemented.
Taken together, regardless of where team members end up next term (New team? New school? See this post about this kind of transitioning for educators), they will be able to use their experience to advocate for more effective team governance.
Make this the focus of your next meeting
Making these three questions the focus of your next meeting will give team members a chance to be heard.
The benefits may not seem obvious, but many teachers develop false assumptions over the course of the school year that their voice doesn’t matter.
These assumptions feed a belief that they have no control over events impacting student learning, and ultimately, they can disengage from the team.
Do middle leaders also feel heard?
Of course, it is possible that as a middle leader, you also feel unheard by others.
This is all the more reason to engage your team with these questions.
Not only will it give you a chance to engage in and model constructive dialog about teaching and learning, but it will also hone your leadership skills.
Three skills middle leaders should consciously develop
Here are three skills you should be consciously developing when facilitating this dialog:
- Meeting facilitation skills: Make dialog more purposeful and ensure equity
- Communication skills: Actively Listen and Paraphrase key points that are surfaced
- Consensus building: Make sure every meeting ends with an agreement on actions to be taken
Based on what you learn from this dialog, you will be able to go into the winter and summer breaks more spirited and hopefully excited about what the new year/semester/term will bring.
Michael Iannini is a CIS Affiliated Consultant with expertise in Strategic Planning, Governance, Human Resource Management, and Leadership Development. He is the author of 'Hidden in Plain Sight: Realizing the Full Potential of Middle Leaders' and is contracted as a Leadership Facilitator for the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) and Search Associates. You can learn more about Michael and his work by visiting www.pdacademia.com and www.middleleader.com.