Sunday, November 29, 2015

Give Teachers the Gift of Presence

Christmas is around the corner and that means one thing, presents. This month I talked to principals about the importance of No Excuses in November which challenged everyone to push the envelope beyond their comfort zone. But after Thanksgiving, principals must be reminded that December is a leadership tool specifically designed to solidify the changes that have been made this year.  And to do that, we must make time to give thanks for all of the hard work that people are doing.  The reason for that is simple. January will be here before we know it, and we will begin to stretch ourselves again with a New Year's Resolution. December in many ways is the season for giving, not pushing.

What are you giving your teachers for Christmas?

When I ask this question of principals, I get lots of different responses. Most of the responses typically revolve around some sort of gift or an action of appreciation. (Check out my COBLOGGERATION page for ideas) While these things affirm people and their efforts, we must remember that the excitement from receiving a present wanes over time. In other words a tangible present's effect doesn't last for very long.

So what should we give our teachers for Christmas?
Well first off I think that teachers like and deserve presents as well as actions of appreciation. In fact I believe in this so much that I spent every December as a principal showering teachers with presents and appreciation (See The 12 days of Christmas for Teachers). But honestly I think teachers and staff members need something more than presents. 

They need Presence
There are 2 types of presence that leaders should give their teachers. 

Personal Presence
Teachers and students need to see a leader who is present in the moment and has a deep desire to connect with those that he or she leads.  When leaders spend time before break with their staff and students on a personal level, confidence swells and affirmation subconsciously grows.  Principals must make a conscious effort to be overly present with teachers and staff and use this presence to affirm effort and show sincere appreciation. 

Reflective Presence
Leaders mustn't stop with personal presence. They should spend the month reflecting with staff members to identify practices that are successfully contributing to student achievement and processes that are excessively laborious, redundant or monotonous. By being present at this level with the staff, leaders send staff members into the Christmas break with a sense of hope that the new year will be better than ever before. Principals should reflect with staff members about the work of the first semester and determine what they will do more efficiently and effectively in order  to move forward in January. 

A December to Remember
Using the month of December for organizational reflection is critical because the month of January will be here before you know it. In order to help people make their very best New Year's resolution for self-improvement, reflection is more than just necessary. It's critical. Additionally in order for a New Year's resolution to be effective, all staff members must be given the gift of presence from the leader so that staff members can honestly reflect on their current state of effectiveness and determine where they must grow next. 

I hope you make this month a December to remember for your school culture by celebrating your staff with more than the presents of now and give them the presence of mind. 

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