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Ten Ways How Teachers Can be Like Spartans

I am reading Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last, and it has been so inspiring.

As you know, after 22 years in the classroom, I’m now in administration, so I’m always looking to develop my leadership skills, so I can be a more effective administrator.

One of the concepts that Simon shares in the book is how people in a successful organization – or in our world – a school – need to feel that they are supported not by just the leadership, but by each other.

Simon uses the example of the ancient Spartans who held their shield as the most valuable of their possessions, not because it had the most offensive capabilities, but because it was the shield that, when locked with your fellow Spartan’s shield, provided a level of safety that protected the army as a whole.

Losing a spear or a helmet was not as shameful as losing the one item that helped to protect your fellow soldier – the shield.

As a teacher for so many years, and now as an administrator, I wonder how good of a Spartan I have been.

Have I worried too much about my personal agenda or what I need to do to succeed instead of looking out for my fellow educator?

If we want our school to be successful in its mission to provide the best education for our students, I believe that there has to be a move to become more like the Spartans. We need to work toward becoming more of a single unit instead of a collection of individuals.

“Isn’t that the job of administration, Sam?”teachers-more-like-spartans

As an administrator, I would agree. Much of the responsibility for creating a culture of collaboration does fall on administration, but I believe that teachers share some of that responsibility as well.

What can teachers do to help create this “Spartan” culture?

Here are 10 ideas:

Be social. It’s so easy to just close your door and be alone in your classroom. I used to love my “alone time.” Sometimes, however, it’s important to connect with other teachers at your school. It’s sad when half the year goes by and you have never spoken to the new math teacher down the hall. That teacher may need you to provide some support or perhaps he/she can help you in some way.

Ask, “Is there anything you need?” It is hard for me to ask for help. I don’t want to impose on people’s time. I think a lot of us are like that. When someone asks me if I need help, however, I feel good. I feel valued. What if we offered more of our help to others? Even if they say no, we have demonstrated that we are willing to support each other.

Stop complaining. That’s all I’m going to say about that. This is a no-brainer.

Be a Secret Santa – all year long. I love Secret Santa time. I love finding that little $1 gift in my box every morning. I also enjoy leaving the person to whom I’m their Secret Santa a little something in their box. For one week, those participating in the Secret Santa are thinking of each other with good and cheerful thoughts. Why can’t we do this all year long? Why can’t we surprise a teacher with a small surprise in their box in November or April? Here’s my new goal: Place a small, inexpensive, but thoughtful gift in a different teacher’s box every week. I’m going to be the Secret Santa (Secret Sam-ta). Let’s see how long it takes for someone to figure out it’s me.

Give shout-outs in staff meetings. Has a colleague gone out of his/her way to help you? In the next staff meeting, ask permission to give a public shout out to that person. Watch how that becomes contagious. Watch how others will join in.

Ask for help. This is hard for me, like I stated earlier, but people, especially teachers, like to help. They want to make a difference, so if you ask for help, you help them reach that goal of making a difference. Try asking for help from the one teacher who is most negative on your campus. You may be surprised by what you learn about him/her – or you might get completely rejected – so it’s a little risky, but I believe it will help to create a stronger bond between you and that teacher.

Nominate your fellow teacher for awards. Is there a Teacher of the Week Award at your school? If not, propose it. I just started one at my school. See below.

Offer to “babysit” that student. Sometimes a teacher just needs to remove a disruptive student from his/her class for a few minutes, but doesn’t want to send him/her to the office. Offer your class as a place where the teacher can “time-out” a student.

Create a Slogan. Get together with your fellow teachers and create a slogan that reminds you of your purpose or goal. Place it on your letterhead. Put it on t-shirts or on email signatures. Make it unique to your school. Try and have a separate slogan for the kids and one for the staff. Students can have: “We are the future!” Teachers can have: “Changing the world – one student at a time.” You get the point.

Testify. I used to go to a church where a part of the program was dedicated to “testimonies,” where people would share the good things that are happening in their lives. These testimonies served to inspire and motivate the rest of the congregation. Sometimes, we forget how important our efforts as educators are. We focus more on the work and less on the effects of our work. Ask permission for a little time at your next staff meeting to “testify” about how a student is succeeding or about how a parent called to thank you. Again, it will cause others to start testifying. Be careful that all the testifying doesn’t take up too much of the staff meeting. Then again, that might not be a bad thing.


After reading Simon’s book – I’m still not finished with it as I’m writing this – I decided to propose a different kind of teacher-recognition program to my principal.

I call it – Hero of the Week.

It’s a new award that is based on teachers nominating each other.

My principal quickly agreed, and we implemented the program this week.

Here is the email I sent out to my teachers:

(Our mascot is the Colt.)

Hello Amazing Colts Staff,

At River Heights Intermediate School, we have some of the most creative, dedicated, kid-loving, life-impacting teachers and staff in the district.

We would like to highlight some of these staff members with a new award that we are calling the Hero of the Week Award.

We all know of people here on campus who go above and beyond in what they do. We need your help to identify them.

Here’s the process:

Every Monday, I will send an email out to all the staff asking for nominations for the Hero of the Week Award.

I will then collect these nominations and place them in a drawing. On Friday, we will draw out the winner.

The winner will have their photo taken and placed in the lobby as our Hero of the Week. He/She will also be given a preferred parking spot in the school parking lot.

At the end of the month, the four (or five) Heroes of the Week will be placed in another drawing for the Hero of the Month Award.

That staff member’s photo will be given a special place of honor in the lobby as well as a $25 gift card.

(Yes, $25!)

Important Information:

All nominees will be forwarded the nominating email, so they know who nominated them and why.

You are free to nominate as many staff members as you like, but you can’t nominate the same person more than once a week. (Duh.)

You are free to nominate yourself. (Go ahead – toot your horn!)

Thank you for being our kids’ heroes.


Here’s our first nomination opportunity. We’ll draw the winner next Friday:

(Just hit Reply and fill in the blanks.)

  1. Who would you like to nominate as your Hero of the Week?
  1. Please describe why you believe this person is a River Heights Hero?

Thank you again,




What do you think? After a couple of days, I have already received about 10 nominations.

I’m excited about how this will bring our staff even closer together.


Let’s be more like the ancient Spartans. Let’s be that teacher who is willing to work together with the other members of the staff for the good of the kids. We can do so much more together than by ourselves. Let’s encourage each other. Let’s support each other. Let’s work together.



Thank you again for all you do for our kids.

Follow me on Facebook or on Twitter.

You are amazing!

Until next time, here’s to your Success in the Classroom!


Check out Simon Sinek’s book, “Leaders Eat Last.”

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