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Empowering Teachers in 2016

Teachers are many things. They are gifted, they are brave, they are hard-working. Unfortunately, teachers can also be overworked, underappreciated, and way too stressed.

That's where Parent Groups can make a world of difference.

Of course, you can't do their jobs for them, but you can be there to offer support, resources, and little vacations from the demands of being a teacher. 

Most teachers can list off the challenges of their job until their face turns blue. But, we work with educators all the time and we have narrowed down the list to 5 main issues: Work Overload, Unable to Stay Organized, Difficulties with Administrators, Challenges with Parents, & Adapting to Technology. Your Parent Group can empower teachers by meeting some of these needs. You may not be able to change the way teachers are perceived and treated in this country, but you can certainly step up to the plate when it comes to making sure the teachers in your school know they are appreciated. 

Below are some creative ideas and methods for teacher empowerment that we hope will inspire you and your Parent Group to take action. 

Give 'em a try and let us know what you think! Leave us a comment after reading, or stop by our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep the conversation going. 

struggle teacher5 Teacher Challenges & Ways Your Parent Group Can Lend a Hand

1. Work Overload

Between lesson plans, meetings, conferences, staying updated on the latest and greatest in education, and, of course, the endless piles of papers to be graded, teachers are overworked.

They not only spend a ton of time working at the school but they also often have to bring work home just in order to stay afloat. 

Your Parent Group can do little about the amount of work your teachers have to do, but you can contribute in other empowering ways:

  • For many Elementary Teachers, they are tasked with keeping up with decorations and displays in their classroom and the surrounding area (hallway & door). Put together a Decorations Task Force that can help teachers gather supplies, design and implement decorations so they don't have to go it alone.
  • For the really hectic times (exam period, parent teacher conferences, etc.) issue out some Teacher Survival Kits, filled with medication for headaches, snacks & candy, hand sanitizer, extra red pens, and an encouraging note.
  • Consider offering weekly childcare. For many teachers, having to bring work home is the worst, mainly due to the fact that they have their own children to care for and a household to maintain. Instead, see if your Parent Group can provide free childcare one afternoon/evening a week so teachers can put in extra hours without worrying about their parental duties. 

2. Unable to Stay Organized

A teacher's life is chock-full of papers, books, to-do lists, class rosters, lesson plans, and the ever-allusive chalk/dry erase markers. It's no wonder that some teachers find it difficult to stay organized! What's more, most teachers have fluctuating schedules and multiple grades/classes that they teach. Plus, some schools are living half in the digital world and half in the paper world, meaning teachers must balance between online tools and tangible papers for things like grades, class rosters, and even some learning materials.

Instead of shaking our heads in pity, let's see this as an opportunity to step in and help out! Disorganization is a problem teacher appreciation 101that is incredibly well-suited to Parent Groups because most of us have found efficient and creative ways to keep our materials, finances, calendars, volunteer lists, etc. organized. And, if you're reading that last statement and thinking, "well...not all of us" then we recommend checking out our previous blog post on Organizing Your PTO Using Online Tools.

  • At the beginning of each term, gift your teachers with a large binder that they can use to stay organized. Go the extra mile by decorating the binder with inspirational sayings to keep them motivated!
  • Another idea is to get either trays or baskets (donations are best!) and make them available to teachers. Suggest marking the trays for each grade level (with a corresponding color). Everything for that grade level goes in the specified tray/basket, and teachers don't have to spend time searching for materials.
  • Create Teacher Organizational Journals. Check out FlyLady's incredibly detailed Teacher Control Journals to see what we mean. Basically, create a how-to guide for staying organized, including what supplies to have prepared, what materials to have pre-planned for the coming month/term, and other items that might go under the radar when there is so much to do in the thick of the school day. 

3. Difficulties With Administrators

Teachers work hard and so do administrators, but sometimes these two groups can clash.

Teachers and admins both have the same goal: to make their schools & students the best they can be. However, sometimes the pursuit of these goals can lead to some headbutting. As a Parent Group, you are in a unique bridge-building position and can serve as a mediator between teachers and administrators in some creative ways!

  • Host monthly forums for teachers and administrators to discuss (on as equal levels as possible) the current issues facing the school. Encourage both groups to collaborate on solutions and, when necessary, serve as mediators during the discussion.
  • Whenever there is a new teacher or administrator host a fun get-to-know-you event. This will help create personal connections between teachers and administrators, thus helping to alleviate tensions.
  • Offer your Parent Group as a resource. Talk to administrators and teachers to see if there is an opportunity for your Parent Group to be used as a resource. These groups are both overworked, and they might not think of the PTO/PTA as a possible solution. Make sure you take some time to talk personally to principles, teachers, and other faculty and staff to see if there is a problem that can easily be solved by an extra set of hands. 

4. Challenges With Parents

It's not always the kiddos that are causing stress for teachers. Sometimes parents can present challenges for teachers, especially with the current pressure being put on simply getting an "A" rather than getting a quality education.

There are all types of parents that teachers must interact with: the parent that wants to tell the teacher how to do his/her job, the parent who thinks a teacher assign too much homework, the parent that asks too much of a teacher's time, and the list goes on.

There is so much pressure in today's society for our kids to succeed and this is often translated into a burden being placed on the teacher, as opposed to the student.

So, what can we do? A ton! As a Parent Group, you have a huge stake in this challenge. Making sure there are positive teacher-parent relations in your school is a high-priority, and here are a few ways to make it happen:

  • Host monthly or bi-monthly workshops for teachers to learn how to deal with conflict, how to communicate with parents and other methods for handling difficult moms & dads. Bring in speakers (seasoned teachers, professional speakers, etc.) for these seminars and make sure to promote them as fun, professional development opportunities.
  • At the beginning of each semester, have a fun "mixer" for parents & teachers to get to know one another. Make sure you communicate this as something different than parent teacher conferences. Consider bringing in entertainment or providing dinner.
  • Take some of the burden off of the teachers when it comes to grades. Reach out to parents via your newsletter or Parent Group website and offer resources, tips and advice for managing homework schedules, keeping grades high, and helping students adapt to different in the classroom

5. Adapting to Technology

Many teachers are now tasked with adjusting traditional teaching methods to adapt to technology in the classroom. While technology, such as iPads and laptops, can make for unique ways of learning and interacting with information, it can also put stress on teachers who are either not used to the technology or find that it gets in the way of learning.

Here's how you can help:

  • Use some of the funds from your Fun Run (or other fundraiser) to provide tech carts for easy storage and organization of laptops and tablets.
  • Host mini-lessons on using technology in the classroom. Make sure teachers are well versed in using laptops and tablets and answer any questions they have about the devices (consider bringing in an IT person if you're not confident in your own abilities!). 
  • Provide some creative ideas for how teachers can use technology for their lesson plans. Getting teachers excited about using technology in the classroom is one step in overcoming this obstacle. 

How is Your Parent Group Empowering Teachers in 2016?

Let us know in the comments!