In February our school was closed for a day for a teacher inservice day. Still being within my first year as an administrator, it was the first time I was expected to plan that 8-hour inservice day. Ideally, I would have hired a professional trainer to come in and teach on a topic that would be beneficial to all of my staff. With my owner still within her first year in the childcare business, however, money is pretty tight; it was up to me to figure something else out.
My Owner and I have been through a lot in our first 10 months of running a school together. I think the biggest hurdle, and one we’re still coming across, is the turnover in staff. Turnover is inevitable when there is a management change no matter what field you’re in. What we were experiencing was a sense of “old” staff (staff that stayed on through the change) vs. “new” staff (staff hired in under my Owner and myself) and infant-toddler staff vs. preschool-pre-k staff. Because of this, our students and families were suffering. No one wanted to work together and those who thought outside the box were being criticized and ridiculed by those wanting to keep the status quo.
I was thinking hard about getting teachers to understand and start to relate to one another. Unfortunately, in a career that empowers and relies on women, we don’t play well in the sandbox together. Now I don’t expect all of my staff members to sit around and sing kumbayah together on their lunch breaks or anything, but I do expect them to treat each other with kindness and respect and be considerate of one another–you know, the same values we’re teaching the children. I was all for some Myers-Briggs personality typing (INTJ in the house!), but my Owner suggested looking into the 5 Love Languages.
I have not read the book, but I did do some research and read some articles on how this is not only applicable to romantic relationships, but relationships with children and co-workers. After checking out the website and reading about the different types, I had to take the quiz to figure out which one I identified with.
Each type refers to a way you respond best to others. To some, words hold great power, where others like to spend quality time together to feel connected. For our purposes (and one I recommend continuing) we omitted Physical Touch since that is not applicable in the work place. At our meeting, I had each teacher take the quiz and write their name under the language they best identified with. Some were quite surprising! Turns out I am a Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service type of girl.
But how did this apply to our needs? By taking the different characteristics of each trait, I made a chart to help teachers identify ways to communicate and show appreciation toward their fellow staff members. Many teachers also took pictures of the lists and who identified with each language so they would remember!
It was a great moment of togetherness for our staff. I truly felt like we broke down a few barriers and began to connect on a much more meaningful level. We took a few moments to speak about our language and how it guides our way through the work day. Being the director, I get called 5 million (or so it seems) times a day with requests for more paper towels, a jug of paint, a heatable that needs warmed, to go to the bathroom, or to check out a kid’s gunky eyes. Being a Words and a Service language person, a simple “please” and “thank you” go a long way with me. That closing teacher that comes up to me at 5:30 asking “What else can I do before I go?” and doesn’t shirk at washing the snack dishes is a godsend. With this discussion we all learned how to better communicate with each other and how to show our appreciation for one another.
I wanted to end our inservice on a high note and with something tangible to remember this by. I found this brilliant quote and printed it on card-stock–one for each staff member–with their name at the top. On the back we went around and wrote anonymous positive messages. Once they were all filled, I laminated them and hung them in the teachers’ classroom closets. Hopefully both the positive message on the front, and the kind words of encouragement from their coworkers on the back help them through any difficult days.
I highly encourage any staff or team having difficulties connecting to look into the 5 Love Languages. It was such a simple exercise but one that has seeped into the classrooms and learning environment. It truly has changed the dynamic of our school!
Wishing you well,