Your Staff, Your Work Family

By Nora Carr

Growing up in an Irish Catholic clan with six siblings and an extended family that could populate a small city, I was instilled with one key value: family first.

That same value applies to organizational communications. Now, more than ever, it is vital that school leaders focus on communicating with their family members -- their employees -- first.

With ideologues using the recession and state budget deficits to bash government employees, break teachers unions, and dismantle public schools as we know them, educators are feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

Stagnant salaries, growing accountability pressures, and too many “my way or the highway” administrators are making teachers feel more like serfs than professionals. That same malaise is spreading to custodians, maintenance workers, cafeteria managers, secretaries, principals, and central office staff. Demoralized people with inadequate resources and support cannot perform at peak levels. As researchers have said, teacher working conditions become students’ learning conditions.

If we want public school employees to personalize education for every child, respond graciously to every parent request, and spur higher test scores than China, we need to start treating them with more respect.

We also need to start paying less attention to outcomes like test scores and more attention to creating the working conditions that foster and support high-performing teams and better student learning. It is time to take care of our school family first.

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