How to Improve Teacher Morale
Teaching is never going to be a lucrative job…no one says, “I think I’ll be a teacher and make lots of money.” No, instead, people say, “I want to be a teacher because I want to make a difference by impacting the lives of young people.”
Teaching can be a rather lonely profession. After all, when the teacher closes the door to instruct, he/she is the only adult in the room. Whereas other professions typically have some sort of comradery, teachers spend most of every day in the presence of minors children. Nearly two-thirds of teachers leave their positions within the first five years.
Across the U.S., teacher morale is declining. Difficult students, demanding parents, low compensation and expectations for students to perform well on standardized tests all contribute to lowered enthusiasm. Administrators can combat lowered teacher morale by doing small things that can be surprisingly easy to implement.
Create a Welcoming Environment
- Leave small surprises in the teachers’ lounge area such as granola bars, fruit, and yogurt.
- Remember each teacher’s birthday with a small gift card, a plant, some candy—something that says Happy Birthday and you matter.
- Make it a point to stop by a certain number of classrooms during the day for a quick chat, and really listen to what teachers both say and don’t say.
- The profession of teaching is sorely underfunded, so when a teacher asks for something for the classroom, work hard to get it. In New York’s Rochester City School District, where poverty rates are through the roof and attendance rates are in the gutter, one administrator said, “If a teacher asks for a refrigerator, and you say to yourself, ‘Why does this person need a refrigerator?’ still, get them the refrigerator.” This administrator knew the teaching staff well enough to go to great lengths to obtain what he/she needed.
- Host a breakfast and lunch once a month for teachers. Recruit parent volunteers to help with the class so that the teachers have an extra 30 minutes of time to eat and visit together.
Most employees will go to great lengths for a boss who they feel is trustworthy and supportive of them.
- Follow through on commitments that you make to them.
- Back them up when parents become angry and accusing.
- Entrust them to try new strategies in the classroom.
- Follow up on concerns to let them know that you have problems handled.
- Make sure they know that your door is always open to suggestions, thoughts, and ideas—and then make sure that your door IS TRULY OPEN. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it or intend to follow through.
Boosting teacher morale does not have to be about money, although sometimes it does involve money. It’s more about entrusting your teachers to take the students in the right direction, even if it’s out of the box instruction. If you have the right teachers in the seats on the bus, they will take you where you want to go—education that makes a difference.