8 Small but Significant Ways to Help Staff Feel Valued

There’s little doubt that teaching is one of the greatest jobs in the world, but it’s also one of the most highly demanding. With teacher shortages now reported in Victoria, throughout the UK and in most US states, schools across the world are now considering how to help their teachers feel happy and supported. After all, everyone needs to feel valued and sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference between a good day and a bad one.

This is why, when someone on Twitter recently asked, What are the seemingly small but actually significant things that help a school hang onto teachers?”, we were more than a little curious to hear the responses.

Some of the answers related to timetabling, some to school policies, and others to leadership culture. Some were controversial (a ban on all emails sent during school holidays) while others were common sense (ask staff for their feedback).

Inspired by the thread, we decided to list 8 ideas for helping staff feel happy and valued:

  1. Thank staff. The most effective leadership teams make a point of recognising achievement and celebrating success. They might send regular emails to remind staff of their great work, celebrate success on social media, or craft handwritten thank you letters at the end of the academic year.  Whatever the format, there’s no doubt that small words of thanks and appreciation can go a long way.
  2. Consider an email block after 6.30pm. This was one of the more controversial suggestions arising from the thread, with some teachers even suggesting an extension of the ban to cover all school holidays. However, others replied that it might simply cause even more stress to restrict communications with colleagues.
  3. Promote healthy work-life balance.  The best schools are flexible, supportive and family friendly with policies that are fair to all. Teachers commented they would love the opportunity to attend their own children’s sports days, elderly relatives’ doctors appointments and friends’ weddings with support of their school.
  4. Support new ideas and innovative practice. Everyone wants to work in an environment that celebrates new ideas and innovative practice. Teachers are highly trained creative professionals, who are always learning and growing. Recognising that nobody wants to feel stifled, the best schools support innovation at all levels.
  5. Invite feedback.  Ask staff for ideas and feedback. Show interest, avoid defensiveness and strive to cultivate an ‘open door’ policy where staff feel happy to speak openly and share their point of view. Teaching staff are often the first affected by new policies and school-wide challenges. Make a point of finding out what is working and what isn’t.
  6. Promote part-time and flexible working options. Would a teacher prefer Friday afternoons or Tuesday mornings to plan their lessons? Let staff have a say about their timetables. In fact, we feel so strongly about this issue that we (literally!) wrote the book on it.
  7. Consider paid mental health days. Many teachers suggested they should be offered flexible ‘mental health days’ or ‘duvet days’, to take without notice, as offered in many corporate organisations.  As opposed to a ‘sick day’, a paid ‘mental health day’ can help teachers to recharge and replenish. Already offered in some schools, this idea was recently featured on the We are Teachers website.
  8. Respect staff time. Make sure all meetings have clear agendas and consider asking staff when they would prefer to meet e.g. Friday afternoon or Monday afternoon? This can usually be accommodated through smarter timetabling.

For more ideas around increasing staff satisfaction, why not download a copy of Edval eBook: Reduce Teacher Workload with Smarter Timetabling.