ISM has long touted a two-pronged approach for effectively supporting teachers. Though extensive research, we have found schools that implement two systems—one that focuses on growth and the other on evaluation—create a school atmosphere that’s supportive and predictive.
When teachers experience a supportive and predictable school environment, they can, in turn, create a better experience for their students. This is positively correlated with student performance, satisfaction, and enthusiasm.
One element of a supportive and predictable environment is that teachers know what is expected of them. They know the norms they’re supposed to follow—we call them Essential Expectations. Essential Expectations will differ for every school. They are set by your school’s Leadership Team and help shape the behaviors of teachers at your school.
Traditional Essential Expectations
Before the pandemic, your school’s list of Essential Expectations might have looked something like this.
- Overtly support and act according to the school’s mission and values.
- Foster a safe, predictable, and supportive environment for students.
- Interact with colleagues in a respectful and collegial manner that fosters a healthy faculty culture.
- Demonstrate appropriate planning and preparation for effective instruction.
- Uphold professional standards of personal presentation, punctuality, professional courtesy, and discretion.
- Appropriately carry out specific assignments as determined by their supervisors.
- Maintain professional credentials when appropriate.
- Honor the confidentiality of school, student, and family information.
- Comply with the policies and procedures as articulated in the school’s faculty handbook.
- Authentically engage in self-reflection and development of a growth and renewal plan. This includes writing goals and progressing toward them.
Every school will have different expectations, but they should share certain qualities. First, structure them as as “pass/fail,” meaning you are fulfilling the expectation or you aren’t. They should also be logical so that most, if not all, teachers can perform them easily. If a teacher is not performing, the situation should be addressed immediately.
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Distance Learning Essential Expectations
The COVID-19 pandemic added uncertainty to the mix. Many of your Essential Expectations can still apply, but you may need to clarify certain elements.
Using the above example, we’ll share how you may now look at some of your traditional expectations.
Honor the confidentiality of school, student, and family information.
Today, teachers have a window into students’ home lives like never before. Ensure they maintain confidentiality, but also create a means for them to report to a school administrator any unsafe situation they witness. Conversely, school plans should not be shared with anyone before they are finalized and communicated through official channels.
Demonstrate appropriate planning and preparation for effective instruction.
Asynchronous projects require oversight as much as synchronous teaching. Teachers should have a plan for both types of instruction and a methodology for assigning and reviewing tasks.
Uphold professional standards of personal presentation, punctuality, professional courtesy, and discretion.
Even while working from home, teachers must maintain a professional mindset. This includes appropriate dress requirements and decorum.
Appropriately carry out specific assignments as determined by school leaders.
This includes “return to campus” duties and responsibilities.
As we enter the winter months and many schools vacillate between in-person and distance learning, the lines become even more blurry. Communicate your intention that teachers must still follow their Essential Expectations, as well as any changes necessitated by the pandemic. This will give your faculty the predictability and support they need to thrive, even in uncertain times.
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