Tags: Classroom Teacher | CPD Coordinator | Headteacher | School Leadership & Management

How can we take positive steps to ensure that colleagues feel valued,their skills acknowledged and their personal qualities appreciated?

The end of the school year is approaching:

  • A time for looking forward to a much-earned period of ‘r and r’
  • A time for saying, ‘thank you’ to colleagues
  • A time for reflecting upon our relationships within the school community.

In the hurly-burly of school life, with all its demands upon teachers’ time and attention, it is easy to overlook (or take for granted) relationships, which may only prove their true importance by their absence. For instance, when a T.A. must take time off for a sick child, it becomes obvious how much we rely upon their expertise and realise how vital is their contribution to the smooth running of the class.

So, how can we take positive steps to ensure that colleagues feel valued, their skills acknowledged and their personal qualities appreciated? A box of chocolates at the end of term and a round of applause from the class is one way of showing appreciation, but this will have a hollow ring to it if it simply rounds off a school year in which the individual has felt largely under-valued, unrecognised and under-appreciated.

When individuals feel that an organisation cares about them, there are huge benefits to that organisation in terms of raised self-esteem, and the increased sense of loyalty and willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ on the part of the employee.

Schools can show they value their staff by building in:

  • Provision of real opportunities for staff to feel empowered. This is achieved by introducing an element of choice and responsibility into their work.
  • Mentoring or coaching support.
  • Awareness of the need for a balance between work and home life.

How can we engender a positive attitude?

Be Honest

Really good teamwork depends upon developing trust between team members. In an atmosphere of mutual honesty, feedback will be effective. Being honest about one’s own strengths and weaknesses shows self-awareness but will also encourage others to be honest about themselves and their abilities.

Empower others through observing and fostering their strengths

  • Notice when a job has been well done and give praise when it is due.
  • Show genuine appreciation in small ways and don’t wait until the end of term!
  • Recognise that people often have more capability within them than they are currently revealing.
  • Help colleagues to tap into the potential you have identified.
  • Empower colleagues by your confidence in their ability to take responsibility for and ownership of areas in which they show potential.

Be a good communicator

You are constantly radiating and communicating messages to others.10% of communication is through language.30% of communication is through sounds we make.60% of communication is through body language.

Be an empathetic listener

To relate effectively with others, we must allow time for listening in order to understand. Empathetic listening means getting inside another’s frame of reference, and viewing the issue from their standpoint (Stephen Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘). Empathetic listening does away with assumptions and pre-conceptions and encourages respect for and appreciation of others.

Be a good role-model

  • Be positive and constructive.
  • Adopt an attitude that anticipates that things will go well.
  • Use self-talk to develop the habit of positive thinking.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.

How can a busy teacher incorporate these practices into day-to-day activities, and why are they important? It may seem time-consuming, but in the long-run time is saved through better communication, more satisfying relationships, more effective working practices and improved out-comes, not to mention a happier and more positive working environment! Nor does it have to be implemented all at once.

Why not try one idea per week, and see the difference it makes? The chocolates will still go down well, no doubt, but will taste much better. Happy holidays!


Embracing Change by Tony Buzan. BBC Books.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster.

Kickstart your Motivation by Sue Stockdale. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, July 2005.

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