Education Opinion

How Do You Motivate Your Staff?

By LeaderTalk Contributor — May 15, 2009 2 min read

I’m convinced the two longest months of the school year are February and May. February because it is in the dead of winter and even though it has 28 days, it seems like it is 28 days in dog years. May is long because we have the myriad end of year assessments, students are anticipating summer vacation (except those on year round schedules), and teachers and school executives are anticipating a chance to recharge. Yet, this year has been much more difficult than most years. The recession with accompanying slashing of state and local budgets has significantly impacted school budgets. More and more schools and districts are facing furloughs, delayed hiring, nonrenewal of contracts at a much higher frequency than we’ve seen in generations.

I’m challenged by this issue: how do we as executives find ways to motivate our staff in non-monetary ways? I’ll list three ways that I have either used or heard others use effectively. Please add your comments to share what you have found that works. In this environment, there truly is the wisdom of crowds.

Look forward to hearing your suggestions and strategies.

Best regards,

Ideas and Suggestions:
1-short hand-written notes to teachers thanking them for something specific that they have done to help achieve your school’s mission. Write these freely and include people that may be frequently ignored, such as custodial staff, office staff, child nutrition staff. One principal has a bunch of 3x5 notecards on card stock with an apple on the front and writes the short note on the back. She keeps a checklist to ensure that she has not forgotten somebody in her school.

2-Student Focus on Success-another principal has 5 minutes at the END of faculty meetings to display the individual picture of a student who has either turned around or made significant progress. She talks about the student, the background, and the success story. She ends with noting that lots of people who have been an important part of helping this student make a step forward. The keys, she says, are to find ways to help people connect to the mission of the school.

3- A twist on this is a quarterly awards breakfast with recognition (with certificate) on ways that people in teams have done something extraordinary. The principal wanted to emphasize teamwork (rather than isolation) and weighted possibilities more heavily with those groups that did something significant between teachers and teacher assistants, or teachers, teacher assistants, and child nutrition or custodial staff, or teachers across grade levels. He is trying to promote cross school collaboration and breaking down silos.

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