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In the movement to improve America’s score on quality education, plenty of attention has been focused on teacher performance, with teacher evaluations being at the forefront of reforms to address some of the challenges. Some teachers are now reporting they feel under attack, according to a recent survey by Educators First.

Of 2,340 teachers surveyed by the advocacy group, 81 percent said it was unfair to use student testing as part of their job evaluations. And 99 percent agreed with the statement that teachers are “under attack.” In another concerning response, 72 percent said they wouldn’t recommend anyone go into teaching as a profession.

Addressing low morale. With morale among teachers declining, principals and other school officials must step up to the challenge of motivating their staff members. That, in many cases, requires improving your own leadership skills.

According to Dr. Sunnie Giles, president of the Quantum Leadership Group, effective leadership includes communicating clearly, being open to new ideas, and committing to employee growth. She gathered that feedback in a study of 195 leaders in 15 countries, which was published in the Harvard Business Review. Here are a few of those leadership traits that could prove to be effective in corporate settings as well as schools and classrooms:

Communicate expectations clearly. About 56 percent of the survey responded ranked “communicating clear expectations” as one of the most important attributes in a leader. By doing so, Giles pointed out, leaders will “avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page.” She also noted that type of open communication can create a safe environment that leads to innovation and creativity.

With many teachers feeling under attack, creating a positive environment could prove to be a significant way to neutralize fears. If you do need to confront a situation, try using this approach that Giles recommends. Say something along the lines of: “I’m not trying to blame you. I just want to understand what happened.”

Be open to new ideas. You want your employees to continually learn and grow. Show your employees that you’re also willing to learn, take input and change directions, if necessary. Giles suggests having problem-solving discussions in which all ideas are acknowledged.

Commit to employee growth. This is another important leadership trait cited in the survey. If teacher evaluations are only used as a “check-in,” they may be perceived as a way to simply penalize employees who are not meeting specific requirements. Teacher evaluations should be a tool to help employees develop a professional plan for growth. By implementing a plan that includes feedback throughout the year and strategies for development, you’re showing that you’re committed to the teacher’s growth.

Here’s what Giles had to say about ensuring that you’re committed to an employee’s growth. “When leaders show a commitment to our growth … employees are motivated to reciprocate, expressing their gratitude or loyalty by going the extra mile.”

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