Creating a School Community: Welcoming Back Educators
Welcome back educators!
I know that can make us feel a number of ways. I was a classroom teacher for over 20 years, and when my admin would greet us with that well-meaning phrase as we filed into the conference room on the first teacher workday, I would have mixed emotions. Yes, I was happy, grateful, even, to report for another year. I got to do what I truly believed was my calling. I loved teaching, and the classroom was my true happy place.
I also felt a little uneasy—trepidatious might even be the better descriptor. What were the new expectations? What was the new schedule? Who were the new staff members? What was the year going to hold? And the all-important question (say it with me), “When will I be able to work in my classroom?” These are just some of the questions that creeped into my thoughts to steal my joy.
As administrators, we know how the teachers are feeling. We probably share some of the same emotions. One of our primary responsibilities as an instructional leader is to create a warm, welcoming community in which we all thrive. Administrators, teachers, staff members, and children will spend the better part of their waking hours in this space for the next 9 months. We want it, no, need it to be a happy, healthy environment for all concerned.
How do we do that? The Internet and social media are full of suggestions on what to do and what not to do as we welcome the new school year. I would laugh out loud at some of the media posts from teachers enumerating the icebreakers or welcome-back activities they find cringeworthy if I had not tried most of them myself. If I am honest, I used a great deal of those strategies in my past as an admin attempting to build community and comradery, to varying degrees of success. I am not going to add to that list here. But all of my attempts, every one of them, whether successful or misguided, came from a good place.
Just as conveying the six positive messages contained in our Six Positive Messages eBook is important for the children, let’s consider these important messages for our educators as well as we welcome them back. Two years ago, we posted this advice, along with some real examples. They are as relevant then as they are now.
Here are the “Six Positive Messages for School and Program Leaders.”
- This is a good place to be.
- You belong here.
- This is a place you can trust.
- You are respected as a professional.
- You have opportunities to grow and develop your skills.
- This is a safe place to explore.
This is not a checklist. Building a cohesive, healthy environment takes time. My advice is to find the one that speaks to you most and start there. My heart was always pulled to #3: this is a place you can trust, and I am an administrator you can trust. That was not something that can be achieved in one day, but it is something that I chose to work on every day. Time, transparency, and the ability to sincerely apologize when appropriate, went a long way.
How you communicate these messages to the staff is really up to you. Be thoughtful, and do not be afraid to try new things. And, oh, yes, remember to allow them uninterrupted time in their classroom!