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Speak Up or Burn Out: Five Crucial Conversations that Drive Educational Excellence


Unsupportive Leaders and Failing Teachers


Five crucial conversations drive educational excellence while preventing teacher burnout. The first two of those conversations are unsupportive leaders and failing teachers.


About the Author

David Maxfield is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. He is also a sought-after speaker and consultant, and leading researcher at VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance.

Five crucial conversations drive educational excellence while preventing teacher burnout. The first two of those conversations are:

UNSUPPORTIVE SCHOOL LEADERS

Most school principals and assistant principals are incredibly supportive. They work hard to remove obstacles, cut through red tape, and get teachers the resources they need. However, when one or more of those school leaders are not supportive, they create high levels of stress and prevent teachers from being as successful as they could be. Below is an example from our interviews:

One of my assistant principals is very unsupportive. For example, when I send a student to his office due to behavior in class, he sends him back without telling me what action hes taken. The student often escalates again and spends more time in the hallway by this assistant principals office. When Ive discussed this with the assistant principal, he says, You can assume I did my job.

Nearly two thirds of the teachers we surveyed reported having one or more school leaders who are unsupportive. That lack of support creates stress, makes teachers jobs more difficult, and threatens the morale of the entire staff.

But the problem isnt just that teachers encounter unsupportive school leaders. The problem is made worse by how teachers handle that politically sensitive situation. According to the survey results:

  • 50 percent of teachers say they discuss unsupportive leaders with friends and family.
  • More than 66 percent share their concerns with fellow teachers.
  • Only one in five share their full concerns with the unsupportive leader.

Those rare teachers who turn toward the fire and have the crucial conversation with their leader are twice as likely to get the support they need. And not surprisingly, they also end up significantly more satisfied with the work environment in their schools.

TEACHERS WHO ARE FAILING IN THEIR CLASSROOMS


Read More

Be sure to read all four parts of “Speak Up or Burn Out: Five Crucial Conversations that Drive Educational Excellence,” David Maxfield’s series on avoiding teacher burnout.
* Part 1: Running Toward the Fire
* Part 2: Unsupportive Leaders and Failing Teachers
* Part 3: Uncooperative Colleagues, Unsupportive Parents, and Students With Discipline Problems
* Part 4: A Few Tips to Get the Conversations Started

Teachers often are the first to know when one of their peers is failing in the classroom. They see or hear visible signs of conflict; they hear complaints from students and/or parents; and they often witness for themselves the poor teaching or classroom management behaviors. Below is an example from our interviews.

For a year, I worked with a teacher who had retired from another state and had taken a position here to pad her retirement. She had no classroom management skills, rapport with the students, or direction with curriculum. It was a pretty bleak picture considering this was the career she had just retired from. I think she wanted the cake without having to do any of the cooking!

More than three quarters of the teachers we surveyed reported having one or more peers who are failing in the classroom. Those teachers see the impacts of those failures, which include poor student learning, more work for other teachers, and increased stress for all.

But the vast majority of teachers run from this fire, not toward it. Only 13 percent have the crucial conversation and share their full concerns with the failing teacher.

We wondered whether some of the teachers who are not having that crucial conversation might be discussing the problem with a school leader instead. Maybe theyre counting on the school leader to correct the situation. We found that 35 percent of teachers refer the problem to a school leader and ask them to intervene. But only half of those school leaders follow up with the failing teacher.

The teachers who step up to the crucial conversation and resolve the problem with their failing peers are significantly more satisfied with their school, more committed to staying at the school, more engaged as teachers, and less cynical about the education process.

Return to Part 1: Running Toward the Fire.

See all four parts of David Maxfields series, Speak Up or Burn Out: Five Crucial Conversations that Drive Educational Excellence.

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