If schools want a strong collegial atmosphere, they need to foster it intentionally—both across the school and on smaller scales.
It is important for teachers and school staff to recognise what it takes to create a more collaborative, strong culture, whether that be in the classroom or in the staffroom. Something to remember for all school staff, no matter the role, “designate time to what you want”, you need to use instructional time to build the atmosphere you want in your classroom or allocate time in your schedule for staff meetings if you are chasing more collaboration from staff.
Culture in a school plays a vital role in whether the school succeeds or fails, since building trust amongst staff members within the school results in more sustained application of best practices. Below are some strategies schools can use to improve or build-up their culture and trust in other staff members.
Social and emotional professional development sessions:
Each staff member signs up for two sessions doing activities they enjoyed such as yoga, cooking, running etc., when experiencing feeling tired, burnt out or insecure about success. Sessions were always highly recommended and spoken about amongst staff who felt the sessions allowed for a lighter feeling to their day. The sessions allowed for bonding time amongst staff members to build the intended trust through stronger connections or break down any barriers of mistrust they might have, also to blow off any steam from a rough week.
Collective cards are an example of a simple act of kindness each staff member can take part in. During your next staff meeting, as the school leader, get all staff members to write their name in the centre of a card and pass it around the table so that each person there could offer a kind word or acknowledgement or note of thanks to that person, which is then returned at the end.
This simple activity allows people to offer a compliment to another staff member that they might not have offered before and encourages staff members to see the good in each person, what they do for the school or them individually. This promotes strong staff culture.
Jump at the opportunity to socialize with staff members outside of the school community, staffroom or classroom. Not all have to involve drinking! Find activities that suit the group, male and female, older and younger, as this will create opportunities for staff to connect on a new level outside of their comfort zone of school where they’re used to seeing these people.
Working on a Smaller Scale
Sometimes it might be hard to start systems school-wide, and you may prefer to work on smaller scales such as the classroom.
Leaders and other staff organize a simple door banner to place on teachers’ doors writing things such as compliments, celebratory notes etc. This is not just beneficial for the self-esteem of the teacher, but it also shows students of that class what a collaborative culture looks like.
Positive classroom observations:
Often when teachers are visited in their classroom by a superior individual, such as an observer, they tend to feel under pressure and judged. It is important to focus on the strengths of the teacher, celebrate him/her on their instructional decisions.
The most important element is the style of management a school leader chooses to manage staff members. It is important to allow staff members to voice their opinions, participate and contribute, things being done with them rather than to them. The use of a survey amongst the staffroom will give you a clear indication as to whether these changes are effective and are promoting a strong staff culture that benefits the staff in a positive way.