10 Ways Schools Could Be a More Attractive Place to Work

A year ago I wrote down this note from the Art of Charm EP 392:

Loving your work is a right, not a privilege.

-Simon Sinek

As an educator, I often wonder “How can we make schools a more attractive place to work?”

The pressure to increase test scores is often at odds to creating an exciting environment. It ignores the human side of education and reduces everyone to a number.

Teachers are not inspired to teach; they are scared to take a risk.

Students are not inspired to learn. Instead, “Will this be on the test” dominates their attention.

This lack of inspiration hurts everyone involved.

Taking a page out of James Altucher’s book, I offer a list.

“10 Ways Schools Could Be a More Attractive Place to Work.”

Feel free to share, critique, and comment below (or you can write your own list).

1. Celebrate the strengths and super-powers of your staff.

Communicate this consistently and constantly. Highlight what you love about your staff through memos, newsletters, videos, etc. Grab some additional amazing ways leaders appreciate their staff here.

2. Provide a ton of snacks, coffee, and tea that your people love.

Not a healthy option, but a great photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For 3 summers I volunteered in Mthatha, South Africa to offer professional development to teachers and admin at the RUCC school.

I loved how twice a day the staff would break, congregating to share some coffee, tea, and snacks as well as great conversation. This built culture and brought the staff together. This happened twice each day!

They don’t just do this in a rural South African school. Here are 21 photos of the most impressive free food at Google.

3. Offer Unlimited Paid Time-Off (PTO).

This would obviously be hard to do in a school setting regarding teachers and admin, but you can take that idea and apply to other aspects of the job. What if districts got rid of furlough days and start paying people for holidays?

As a former teacher, instructional coach, and administrator, I believe teaching was the most demanding job I had. District leaders should figure out a way to better compensate these professionals instead of cutting corners to save a buck or two on the backs of these professionals.

4. Build in nap times.

According to Michael Hyatt, “Your virtual mentor,” naps are very beneficial. Naps bring one back to an alert frame of mind and help them be more productive. I have found that naps offer me the opportunity to “unplug” and then re-engage into the important work before me. Allowing school staff to take a break from already incredibly demanding jobs would give permission to unplug and to bring your best self back to your work and your students.

5. Design schools that are vibrant.

Photo by Cel Lisboa on Unsplash

The first classroom I taught in had no windows. I didn’t stay at that school very long.

6. Get rid of grades for everything.

I’d love to see schools pursue more project based and problem based learning. Get rid of worksheets and putting a grade on everything. Replace them with portfolios and “do-overs.” Let kids learn from mistakes and discuss what they learned. Focus your attention on growth not a specific point in time.

Society needs problem solvers, not hoop-jumpers.

7. Focus.

The paperwork and bureaucracy of a modern public school is maddening. Initiatives pushed down from central office are often totally disconnected from the day-to-day reality at the local school level. Many initiatives are awesome. Many are needed. The problem? Time is a finite resource and leadership rarely acknowledge this point. If you add something for a teacher to do, what are you willing to take away? You can’t have it all.

As a business owner I approach every new opportunity this way. For me to say “Yes,” a new opportunity has to be aligned to my mission, vision, and values. Then, I look at my calendar. If I add this opportunity, what will I take away? Too much salt is a bad thing. Sometimes the best form of addition is actually subtraction. It really is that easy.

8. Chase personal goals.

Our teacher evaluation system is broken. I love explaining to my small business friends how we evaluate teachers. An evaluation model based on the Danielson Framework produces an astronomical amount of paperwork… and it is a waste of time.

I will concede that new evaluation systems are an improvement over simple checklists that most districts used in the past. But now the pendulum has swung the other way and it takes … too … long. Teachers should be encouraged to chase personal and meaningful goals that will both benefit them and their students. Simplify the evaluative process. Did the teacher meet their goal? Did the school leadership support the teacher in pursuit of her goal? If the goal was not met, what do we do as a result. If it was met … time to celebrate!

9. Provide real coaching and development opportunities.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Coaching is often only provided as a last-ditch effort to develop a poor teacher. Instead of focusing on the teachers that don’t cut it already. What if we focused on supporting amazing teachers and helped them grow from good to great? Schools need to find a way to put effective teachers in a coaching role with their peers. This could be a game changer.

10. Shorten the school day and school year.

When I worked in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel did the opposite. At the time, Chicago had the shortest school day and year in the entire nation. As a new mayor, this was a smart political move. It looked good in the news. The only problem is that a longer school day and year doesn’t equal a better outcome. If I have a terrible recipe for chocolate chip cookies, the cookies still suck even if I bake 10x the amount. Better quality time and instruction is what is needed. Finland is often seen as the best educated nation. I find it ironic that it has the most recess too.

So what did you think? Could these 10 ideas make schools a more attractive place to work? Comment below and share!

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