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Walden Magazine // Jan 01, 2010

How to Create a Positive Learning Community

The recipient of the Contribution to the Profession Award shares takeaways from her research.

Eileen BergIn her dissertation, Perceived Effects of Teachers’ Unions on Administrators’ Roles and Morale, Dr. Eileen Berg determined that teachers’ unions have a negative effect on the performance of school administrators in Ontario, Canada. Berg’s study, which shed light on a controversial and underreported subject, was awarded Walden University’s 2009 Contribution to the Profession Award.

“Ontario is very unionized, and my dissertation was a hot topic that no one thought I should be discussing,” says Berg. “People still aren’t quite ready to hear what I have to say, but Walden recognized the phenomenal worth of my study.” As an elementary school principal in Toronto, Berg has experienced the negative effects of teachers’ unions on teacher and administrator morale firsthand. Below, she shares some of the problems she encountered and offers solutions based on her own experiences.

Bridge the Gap
Administrators were taken out of Ontario’s teachers’ unions in 1998, which created a sharp divide between the two sides, especially because administrators aren’t entitled to the same protective, collective agreements.
Solution: “Close the gap between the administrators and the whole union by creating meaningful relationships. Spend time working closely with teachers to show them that teachers and administrators can work together without union interference.”

Foster Positivity
Unhappy teachers contribute to a negative environment among their peers and discourage camaraderie.
Solution: “Create an open-door policy that encourages teachers to meet with administrators at lunch, after school, and anytime that a problem arises. Your dialogue will create a contagious learning environment, and if you have happy teachers, you’re going to have happy students.”

Celebrate a Job Well Done
Teachers do not feel appreciated for the hard work they put in.
Solution: “Celebrate school accomplishments. This past year, our standardized test scores improved tremendously and we had a luncheon to celebrate. Everyone at school, including secretaries, support staff, and caretakers were invited to reward the teaching staff for their hard work and to encourage them to continue on the path of excellence.”

Read more about Dr. Eileen Berg's award-winning research on teacher unions, and about past recipients of the Contribution to the Profession award.