Building a Learning Culture for Teachers

Part 1 of 5 – Building a Learning Culture for Teachers

As a principal of an elementary school I am tasked with providing feedback to teachers about instructional and professional practice via the district-adopted teacher appraisal system.

Lots of teachers throughout our country are writing and talking about how disappointed, angry, and humiliated they feel because of the feedback provided to them on their appraisal system. I can honestly say I have not experienced this dissatisfied movement from teachers at my school.

As I reflect back on why teachers across our nation are responding negatively to the feedback, I must wonder to what did I do to help build a culture for learning so that feedback is seen as a growth opportunity and not a “gotcha” moment at my school.  Feedback is seen as an opportunity to learn and improve.

 Here are five factors I believe helped build a learning culture at my school:

  1. Provide feedback to teachers and communicate continuously that I value the teaching profession and them as individuals.
  2. Share with teachers my personal growth journey
  3. Provide actionable formative feedback using non-bias and factual statements that highlight strengths and something to think about
  4. Provide resources for teachers to access professional development and collaboration time.
  5. Hire teachers who demonstrate that they are continuous learners.

In this post I will focus on the first factor.

Provide feedback to teachers and communicate continuously that I value the teaching profession and them as individuals. Spending time to get to know your teacher’s on a personal level and having conversations about their personal interest like how many children they have, knowing the names of their children, know what sports or activities their children participate, learn what hobbies or educational topics the teacher has a passion and interest. As the express goes “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Beginning on a genuine positive note helps minimize the “He does not like me”, “He is just out to get me” “the only time I see him is during observations” thoughts and feelings. Notice I said minimizes, there are always some people who just don’t like or agree with me.

I read about highly effective leaders. One common trait of highly effective leaders is that they express appreciation. I hardwire into my daily routine to write two thank you notes everyday to different people in my school. Taking time to write hand written notes has had the greatest impact on teacher for building a positive relationship. Along with writing hand written notes, making hospital visits, attending funerals, and sending birthday and get-well cards also are high relationship builders.

During my conversations with teacher I share information about my family and my personal interests. I want our relationship to grow mutually.

Having done these five things has really transformed our school into a learning culture for teachers and myself as an educational leader. The transformation did not occur over night. I have had the privilege to work in the same school for the past seven years. Together we have watched and assisted each other through our triumphs and redo’s. We are a more effective faculty because of the process we participated together.

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Have you found others factors to be key to building a learning culture for teachers? I would love to read about it.


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