Teaching and leading during a pandemic has us experiencing that overwhelming feeling earlier than ever before in the school year. As school leaders, we know you understand the importance of keeping your team motivated, focused and uplifted. Here are three ways we believe will help you encourage your team and wrap them in love and support.

1. Listen
One of the best things a leader can do is listen. Let your team members vent, cry or just share what they’re thinking. Don’t just say you have an open door policy—prove it. Schedule time to meet with people individually to check in on them. And remember, when we say “team members,” we also mean nurses, custodians, librarians, and so on. YOU are important too. Find people you can talk to even if that means a professional therapist. Your mental health should be a top priority so you can listen fully.

2. Encourage
This one is a tricky one. Hear us out. We don’t mean that blanket “You’ve got this!” or “Together we’re stronger” kind of encouragement. Why? Because when you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed that does nothing to truly lift your spirit. A leader has to be the lead encourager but with encouragement that is specific and attainable. Surround people with resources that will help them. Ask them, “How can I help you?” instead of relying solely on observation data. Check out the TEPSA Presents episode “Helping You and Your Team Deal with Stress” with Daniel Patterson to hear more about this!

3. Be Vulnerable
Leaders have to lead from their heart. They have to show their vulnerability and that they don’t have it all together all the time, much less all the answers. No we’re not talking having a full on “I’m about to have a breakdown” conversation with your team, but let them know how you’re feeling and ways you’re working on maintaining your own sanity. Vulnerability shows you are seeking to connect.

There are many other countless ways you can support your team. We know you’re balancing many spinning plates to keep things moving forward. But we hope you’ll find these three tips easy to implement with huge rewards. We also encourage you to share something that has helped your staff! Feel free to share on social media and #SparksInTheDark and #WeLeadTX.

Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 6000 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

© Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association

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