There are many reasons that I get up every morning. One is that my dog knows how to tell time and walks into our room ready to go on his walk at 5:30. Another one is that I have the opportunity to meet and spend time with some of the most compassionate, intelligent and innovative leaders in education. Recently I had the absolute pleasure of being introduced to Natalee Bartlett. She is the Superintendent of East Hanover School District in East Hanover, NJ. Based on what I saw on their website and their robust social media communication, I was hooked immediately by what was going on in this district. Dr. Bartlett and I spoke about many things, but today we’re focusing on her thoughts on an aspect of professional development that she and her team explicitly focus on with both new and experienced educators.
When we dived into this topic it was almost as if I could see her get even more passionate than she already was. Ms. Bartlett started her thoughts on f professional development by honing in on what she believes is the most important foundation skill educators need: COMMUNICATION. “First and second-year teachers have a tough time at Back to School Night. It can be scary and overwhelming. We spend time focusing on the importance of effective communication, especially during the first more important event of the school year. She said they really instill in new educators the fact that “you are talking about their heart and soul. Have to be loving and kind when talking about what you’re going to be doing this year.” She and her team spread out to different classrooms to sit in, guide and offer suggestions and ideas to new educators that focus on the power of communication. While this could be intimidating to some, the culture in her district is that ‘teaching is an act of love and these people are family.” Feedback and guidance are well received and implemented easily, she says. Ms. Bartlett and her team instill in educators that “If you can’t deliver in a way that people get it, you’re not going to be successful.” Her vision is to make sure that all of her educators are “kind, great communicators. Any message delivered to students, parents and each other MATTERS!! It’s built into everything we do.”
What do educators really need?
When I interview education leaders, I always ask questions about their concerns for teachers retention and job satisfaction. In light of huge teacher shortages across the country in addition to the many recent teacher strikes, it’s on my mind a lot. When I asked Ms. Bartlett this question, she didn’t hesitate, “Teachers need to be treated with respect. Feeling respected and valued makes people happy. When they’re happy their project happiness. When they’re happy, student success and student happiness increases. It’s cyclical.” To prove that she is walking the walk on this one, you should know that she visits each school every single day. While her district is small, that does not dilute the fact that she knows the name of each and every teacher, para and student in her district. If that doesn’t show her respect for her team, I don’t know what does. And as a strong believer in the power of validating people and helping them to be successful in what they do every day, I have to say that I agree with this simple statement.
Want to learn a little more about what Ms. Bartlett and her team are up to? Check out her Facebook page. It’s awesome!
Thank you, Natalee, for your wisdom, energy, vision, and love for education. We’re lucky to have you in this universe.