Rochelle Borton has always thrived on embracing the new.
After years of service in various roles at the University of Wollongong, she leapt into the startup world, joining an edtech firm that showcased impressive technology. However, after realising the startup environment was not the right fit, she embarked on a new and exciting venture that truly ignited her professional passion.
Born from her experiences in the education sector, Borton saw the potential to make a meaningful impact on the lives of school leaders and students through founding EduInfluencers, an initiative to deliver professional learning and training in the area of high performing teams.
With what began as one four-part course eight years ago has since grown into a professional development bonanza that includes hundreds of seminars, webinars, workshops, courses, and professional training that is used by schools nationwide.
Today, as principals struggle with overwhelming teacher shortages, crippling workloads and a worsening youth mental health crisis, Borton’s work is more important than ever.
In a recent blog titled: ‘What really matters?’ Borton said motivation is the key that unlocks experiences that create a healthy work/life balance, also noting that effective teachers quickly learn the art of behaviour management and use a range of strategies to motivate student engagement and learning.
Strategies for principals
Borton says while fostering motivation in staff and students can be challenging, the achievement of goals, linked to values and personal motivation are known to enhance overall wellbeing and performance of staff, giving even more reason to ensure specific strategies are adopted by school leaders.
“There are several strategies that can support this improvement,” she told The Educator. “One of these is creating a positive and supportive school culture by encouraging open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect among students and staff.
Borton said it is also important for staff to recognise and celebrate achievements, efforts, and growth in an authentic way.
Indeed, recognition is one of the key factors that has been contributing to Australia’s worsening teacher shortage, as a recent report by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership shows.
Borton says another strategy that can foster motivation in staff and students is working alongside them to set clear goals and expectations.
“This can be done by clearly defining challenging, and attainable goals for both individuals and the school community as a whole,” she said.
“Expectations should be communicated effectively to students and staff, ensuring they understand the purpose and relevance of their tasks or roles.”
Borton also emphasised the importance of empowering staff and students through providing them with greater voice and agency.
“Where possible, provide autonomy and choice, offering students and staff options in decision making, in their learning process.”
Other strategies Borton recommends include promoting a love of learning by creating engaging, differentiated, and meaningful educational and learning experiences; providing regular feedback that focuses on progress, effort, and improvement rather than just outcomes; and offering opportunities for self-reflection and self-assessment.
“Leaders must also remember to support wellbeing and self-care, encourage work life balance and foster a sense of belonging,” she said. “Additionally, supporting ongoing professional development and growth for staff is important in the building of knowledge and skills, career advancement and a culture of continuous learning.”
Borton said creating an environment that encourages autonomy and positive behaviours for a healthier work/life balance requires intentional strategies from school leaders.
“To ensure this can be achieved school leaders must first lead by example,” she said.
“Modelling a healthy work/life balance and demonstrating the importance of self-care and personal time, as well as communicating experiences that highlight the challenges and benefits of this balance is imperative.”
Further to this, if clear expectations, policies, and school norms are adhered to and promoted then it is much more likely that a work/life balance can be achieved, says Borton.
“These could include things like reasonable working hours, weekend time, understanding of entitlements and personnel support that are available if needed,” she said.
“Encouraging open dialogue about workload management is important too, encouraging staff to discuss concerns or difficulties they may face in maintaining balance and being supported to identify priorities.”
Borton said identifying priorities can also mean that staff are clearer on when it is possible to delegate responsibilities and when they are encouraged and empowered to use their professional judgment in leading projects or initiatives aligned with their interests and expertise.
“This can also foster a culture of trust and respect, allowing staff members to have autonomy in decision-making within their areas of responsibility,” she said.
“None of this is possible without professional development, and despite self-care being the responsibility of the individual, leaders can create the environment where wellbeing is prioritised.”
Borton said this can include exposure to topics known to support positive behaviours, like time management, and stress reduction techniques, mindfulness, and resilience.
“Encouraging staff to pursue professional growth that aligns with their interests and passions, allowing them to maintain a sense of fulfillment can also be a part of creating a positive connection with work,” she said.
“Above all else, fostering collaboration and supportive relationships is perhaps one of the key factors to creating an environment encouraging autonomy and positivity.”
Implementing a team-oriented approach in the educational environment can also have a significant positive impact on staff motivation and productivity, said Borton.
“Opportunities for collaborative planning and decision-making, reducing individual workload and fostering a sense of collective efficacy can encourage staff to support one another and share strategies for work/life balance,” she said.
“If a culture of open communication is promoted, then staff members feel comfortable discussing workload concerns and seeking support from colleagues and leaders.”