Lack of confidence in your administration can really lower motivation no matter where you work, this is especially true in our country’s school systems. Confidence and a positive attitude starts with strong leadership, but today I want to talk about Human Resource Departments at schools. It seems to me that as a whole, this is lacking in a lot of schools. I get the sense Human Resource as a concept is overlooked and/or under resourced at most schools. I believe that if every school had a human resource department we would see humongous growth in our education system.
My guess is that since most schools are run by a district, this aspect is often left to a small group of people trying to manage several schools and their faculties. This I think creates a disconnect, and ignores a great opportunity to help make amazing teams of really good teachers. The connection needs to happen on campus. If it is separate, it is out of sight. We all know what that means. A great HR department sets the tone of an administration. They model the level of professionalism that the administration expects of the teachers being hired. They help build a culture. They are the welcome party. They get teachers excited about working where they work. With the right tone and level of sincerity, your teachers will begin the process of buying into your mission, your model. In short, a great HR team allows teachers at a school to get on the same bus and begin collaborating as a team.
Here is my thought, and I am not pretending to have created this myself. I am putting it out there to make sure that when I have a school, or district, of my own one day that I have every piece of the puzzle beginning to take shape. A teacher should show up on campus and receive every tool they can conceive of that helps their classes succeed. Right now, I like the iPad/macbook/apple-tv combination along with wireless printers and copiers. But whatever tools necessary. Every policy that is expected to be understood is given a good amount of time, say a day or two reviewing with a moderator of sorts. Perhaps an activity that requires reading, finding answers, and discussing issues the teachers bring up. Things like dress code for teachers and students, where to request materials, how to put a purchase order request, how to organize professional development, and how the school handles discipline should be clear and well explained/demonstrated. We would also spend a good amount of time discussing lesson plans, assessment, grading(or feed back as I hope to focus on in the future). I want to make sure that what I would want from all my teachers is transmitted and modeled.
There has to be thorough tour of the campus. I love the form of a scavenger hunt or something fun with a map that describes where landmarks exist. We did this about two months into school this year, and we had so much fun. It would have made a tremendous difference on the start of my year. There ought to be a few hours where the new teachers reflect on teaching as a profession, why they are there, and understanding the school’s mission. The idea is to really work through how their mission as a teacher aligns with the schools mission as a whole.
My general concept is to begin creating a culture much like something you’d see at a Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the companies that are considered the best places to work in the world. I firmly believe that it is more important to love the place and people you work for and with, than it is to focus on your students and loving them. Whether we always put it out there or not, the student-teacher relationship can be really frustrating at times. My motivation as a teacher has to come from within more often than from my brilliant students (even though I have so many brilliant students in my classes whether they believe that or not.) This culture of loving the school is that underlying driving force towards excellence, that carries people through the tough times.
The last thing a great HR department can do is to help the administration make strategic choices in hiring and policy. I recently read an article from Bersin by Deloitte, it was more about changing an existing corporate culture, but I liked this sentiment: “Leadership sets the tone and direction of a corporate culture, but HR could be the mirror for our leaders and help them see both the positive and negative elements of their decisions and behaviors.” I think faculty might feel less inclined to express concerns, frustrations and doubts with administration given the employee/employer dynamic. As a faculty, it can be hard to find time worry about those thing or even to try to think strategically about where a school is going. A great HR department can be the faculty’s advocate as well. They might be able to help an administration make better decisions before they lose the confidence of their staff, which is when a school can begin to lose its way.
I think a great HR department helps teachers feel like professionals, it makes them feel taken care of, and it elevates a faculties self esteem. It is all about making the most difficult job in the world, teaching, as easy as humanly possible, and giving our teachers the confidence to go out and be amazing at what they do.