The Importance of Empowering Teachers

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/High School Principal; MA in Educational Leadership
Smiling, female teacher at front of classroom writing on whiteboard.

Administrators desiring to create a climate conducive to student educational achievement must include empowering teachers. Our teachers must believe that their classroom is truly their classroom. Teachers must have confidence that the administration trusts them to teach students to the highest possible standards. A teacher that feels they are a major part of the learning process of the school has the opportunity to take their students to new heights.

Building a Professional Rapport

A major component of empowering teachers is for an administrator to collaborate frequently and honestly with their teachers. A key way to do this is through frequent “walk through” evaluations. These “walk through” evaluations should be followed up with immediate feedback. This immediate feedback is an excellent place to begin to empower teachers. For example, an administrator might see a teaching method that, while effective, could possibly be even more so with a slight adjustment to that method. The administrator, while praising a good job, might empower the teacher to consider a slightly different approach to enhance the already excellent job the teacher is doing. It is also important for the administrator to follow up later with the teacher to see how the enhanced teaching methods faired with the students.

Empowering Teachers Promotes Confidence from Students

An empowered teacher exudes confidence in the classroom which often parlays into student confidence in the teacher. Empowered teachers teaching within the standards, while incorporating their own “free teaching” spirit, inspire students to also think freely and with excitement and enjoyment of the subject matter. The classroom where students freely discuss, question, and work through course work details is a classroom where deep learning takes place. We, as administrators, should strive to empower our teachers to have a “think outside the box” mentality and hopefully guide their students to have the same. Students that feel their teacher is forward-thinking and striving to make the classroom interesting should have confidence that their teacher has their best interest in mind.

Empowering Teachers to Teach Across Subject Areas

As an administrator, I have found that encouraging teachers to collaborate and ultimately teach across the subject areas is a great way to foster empowerment. Teaching across the subjects not only empowers individual teachers, but also multiple teachers and multiple departments. Empowering teachers to come up with subjects and multi-course outlines across the disciplines is an awesome way to empower teachers. By allowing this type of teaching, an administrator is telling their teachers that they trusts them with the subject matter and student learning. It is important however to continue to evaluate frequently and give feedback, both good and bad. As an administrator, should you see the ideas going off course, you must step in and “right the ship”. This can be a little tricky if you are dealing with two or more teachers that you have just empowered to go forth and conquer the subject at hand. It is important here that you don’t discourage teachers, but instead help them to redirect. Just because a part goes awry does not mean the entire idea is bad and should be abandoned. In fact, a part of a concept that is not working can actually lead to a better outcome by making adjustments. There is a reason why the lubricant WD40 is called WD40! The product was not perfected until the fortieth try!

Empowering Promotes Differentiation

Differentiation within the classroom can be as wide and varied as the number of students in that particular classroom. We implore teachers to differentiate their teaching to fit the needs of their students. Of course we can all agree that this can become a daunting task given the fact that every child is different and has different educational needs. When we add to this fact that the standards and benchmarks must be met in time for the inevitable end of year test cycle, it can be overwhelming. By empowering our teachers to “think outside the box”, we are also asking them to differentiate their instruction to meet student needs. By encouraging our teachers to differentiate, we are in effect empowering them to use wide and varied styles of teaching. By empowering we are also allowing our teachers to try innovative techniques to improve student learning. Differentiated instruction is important and might be best accomplished by empowering our teachers to find out just how to do that in their classroom and with individual students.

Empowering teachers is just as important as providing them with supplies. We as administrators are constantly stating that teachers are our most valuable teaching asset. By empowering teachers, we show that we mean that statement and are willing to trust them to get the job done.

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