Saying “Yes” to Educator Success

Saying “Yes” to Educator Success

Saying “Yes” to Educator Success

By Ben Barton, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools

Every Teacher Appreciation Week, I sit down to thank the educators of Princeton Public Schools, and each year, this task grows more important yet more challenging. I know that without substantive support behind the scenes, our thank yous can feel hollow. More than any time before, as educational leaders, we need to demonstrate our appreciation by showing more than telling.

The role of an educator has radically changed since I was in a classroom. Gone are the days when teachers simply delivered instruction in their content area. Today’s educators navigate an entire student experience, and as school leaders, we must evolve our operations to reinforce their vital, expanded roles.

Learning is a people business. Our greatest assets are the teachers who walk through our doors each morning. By celebrating this truth, we reinforce their purpose and the impact they have on our students’ lives.

The challenges educators face are mounting each year. Beyond academic instruction, teachers now must be adept in crisis prevention, non-exclusionary disciplinary practices, social-emotional learning, and diversity and equity practices. They must draw on more than subject matter expertise. Understanding student trauma, mental health needs, conflict resolution, and equity are crucial parts of the job. Adopting new technology and mastering new skills outside their disciplines is the norm, not the exception. Keeping up with rapid changes like AI takes incredible dedication to ongoing learning.

On top of these classroom challenges are greater societal issues. Disruptive behaviors and even unsafe situations have increased as teachers work to create an environment where every child feels welcomed, respected, and able to learn — despite what students experience online, in the news, or in their homes.

We cannot lose sight of the heart and dedication our staff members bring to this demanding vocation. Their passion and perseverance in supporting the whole student are inspiring.

As a superintendent, I know it’s not easy to find the right balance between budgetary demands and providing the resources our teams need to meet the increasing demands of their own jobs. What I know is that we all need to be in this together, side by side.

Too often, I find myself forced to say “no” as budget constraints limit what resources and support we can provide. This conflicts with my deep desire to empower our educators by saying “yes” — yes to the training, yes to the technologies, yes to the staffing and program needs that will allow you to thrive in your rapidly evolving roles. Our children will never realize their fullest potential if educators are stuck in a mindset of scarcity. Together, let’s shift to a mindset of opportunity and find creative ways to say “yes” to increasing support for educator success.

We all share a common objective of providing the best possible education for our community’s children. Instead of fostering a culture of rivalry, we can foster a spirit of collaboration as partners united in elevating the entire education profession. When we combine our resources, insights, and innovative problem-solving as leaders, we significantly enhance our capacity to champion education’s vital work. The future of our communities depends on it.

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