The success of a school depends on many factors, and one of the main indicators of this is a happy and engaged team of teachers. The impact of happy teachers on students and school life is profound, yet when we’re constantly reminded of the pressures the education system is facing, it can be difficult to engage with staff, improve their happiness at work and create a culture in which they and your students will thrive.
When staff are engaged at work they’re more productive, retention is higher, turnover is lower and all in all, they’re more loyal. However, in order to reap these rewards and benefit from an engaged workforce, teachers need to be able to their opinions and have them heard. Especially during the ongoing teaching crisis, as scrutiny on teachers and school management is being upped and the pressure is on to show teachers how incredibly crucial they really are.
Gathering honest teacher feedback from your team will not only make your staff feel valued, it will also further your mission to improve culture and wellbeing and give you invaluable insight into the impact your decisions are having school-wide. It’s easy when we’re under pressure ourselves and working with our team’s best interests at heart, to implement change without taking into account the wider teams opinions.
This can have serious consequences on staff such as them becoming dissatisfied and not actively working with you to implement the change you’ve actioned - it can also create a divide between senior leadership and the rest of the school which fosters an unpleasant and, at times, militant environment.
How to show staff you care
Success in a school sees Principals involving staff in key decisions and getting opinions at all stages of a new process. This means teachers will have a genuine interest in the new initiative, will be reassured that their opinion is valid and gives you the opportunity to foster new skills in your team. It can also provide you with a new perspective on ideas, and ultimately strengthens the team morale that you have worked so hard to build.
The key to gathering feedback from teachers that will help you to improve their time at work and also the wider running of the school, is to not make it a ‘thing’. Regular anonymous surveys could mean that teachers save up all their grievances and ideas because they feel as though this is the only time they’re heard - but chances are if this is the case, by the time feedback is gathered it’s too late in terms or retention or allowing time to implement good ideas.
In order for feedback to be worthwhile, it needs to be consistent and natural. Feedback should be allowed and encouraged at all points throughout the academic year - provide teachers with suggestion boxes, ask for opinions during meetings, and check in with school-wide initiatives that affect staff so they’re involved and can contribute along the way. This gets staff engaged and delegating tasks to team members who care, meaning you’re offering them new opportunities and spreading the workload.
Getting reliable feedback
To actually get teachers to give their feedback, take the fear away from speaking up and create a culture of honesty and openness. Listen to what staff have to say and try not to take it personally, actually ask for their opinion and perhaps most importantly, revisit feedback you’ve received.
This is most important to genuinely making your staff feel valued and that their opinion counts; one of the most common reasons for staff not providing feedback is because they feel as though it is a waste of time, as it’s never followed up on. By taking the time to make a change to the way you collect feedback and promote teacher engagement and voice, you could make changes that have long term positive impacts on your school.
A culture where opinions are encouraged sets a good example for students and allowing teachers to voice their ideas means that issues can be resolved or addressed before they become real problems, which in turn means happier staff and higher retention.