As we head into August and another school year, I watch my daughter, a third-grade teacher, engage with her students and I recognize how fabulous she is as a leader. Okay, I may be a touch biased, but it is evident in the results of her student success. More importantly, she fully connects with the parents of the children in her class. Teachers are leaders on so many levels – with students, with parents, with colleagues, and even with community members. As I watch the behaviors and strategies my daughter uses, I see how clearly she implements meaning, both inside and outside of her classroom. She fully utilizes the 3-Es of Engagement, Empowerment and Expertise!
Engagement is Key
The #1 success factor for her as a teacher has been Engagement. And by engagement, I mean her innate ability of just being a good human being. As we near the beginning of another school year, I see how she captures the hearts of the parents and the students even before the school year officially begins. One small, but important factor that clinches the success of the year is a simple postcard which she mails (yes, good old-fashioned snail mail) to each and every child in her class. She tells the students how excited she is to meet them and she shares some of the fun things they can expect in third grade. This small act of engagement helps to start the year with a positive note of inspiration. And it works! This is a best practice for the start of every school year and gets the students, and the parents, ready for the upcoming year.
Constant Communication is Critical
People are more comfortable when they understand what is going on. Communication is the key to ensuring success with your team, whether it’s the children in the classroom, or your colleagues in your organization. Two simple, but meaningful, activities have kept the parents completely engaged. The first is a weekly email which provides a quick update on the past week and upcoming events. Numerous parents have said they have never had a teacher engage with them as much as she does, and they express how much they appreciate it. Teachers, take note. It only takes ten minutes, yet the positive results last a lifetime.
The second form of communication is entitled “Friday Letters”. True with most young children, a parent asks, “What did you learn this week?”, and the child answers, “Nothing” or “I don’t know.” To combat the “nothing” response, each Friday, the class talks about their past week and the activities that took place. After this open discussion and reminders of the week’s events, the children write letters to their parents about what they learned and loved during the week. The letters are sent home in the weekly folder. This is a non-graded, non-corrected assignment to share positive stories. The parents are to read the Friday Letters, flip the paper over and write a simple note with positive affirmations back to the child. At the end of the year, the Friday Letters were bound and sent home for families to cherish forever. Again, an overwhelming number of accolades have occurred from this small act of engagement.
Create a Meaning-Centered Leadership Approach
It’s the little touches that can change lives. Get personal. Touch the heart. Small, but mighty and important steps to earn a reputation of a true leader. Engagement is the first E in the Meaning-Centered Leadership theory. Relationships are the key to success, whether you are leading a group of 9 year old children through lessons of reading and writing, or you are leading a team of business executives! Remember to fill your days with Engagement, Empowerment and Expertise.