By Teachers, For Teachers
Attitudes, whether good or bad, are contagious. As an administrator of a school, it is important to realize that teachers and all school staff are watching what you say, what you do, and how you react to others. Education is a difficult job. The demands of being a teacher increase each year. Teachers make relatively low pay, deal with discipline issues regularly, prepare students for testing, and much more. In order to keep a high morale, administrators must continuously take the pulse of their school and work to maintain and strengthen staff morale each day.
One of the most important things an administrator can do to boost morale within a school is to be appreciative. According to US News, 60% of employees say they have quit a job because they did not feel appreciated. Verbal appreciation is one of the easiest ways to express gratitude to your employees. Simple praises such as, “great job today” or “thanks for all you do” go a long way. Compliments like this show hard working teachers that you, the administrator, notice what they are doing and you recognize they are important. Administrators can also be creative and make appreciation fun. For example, at one elementary school, the administrator broke out maracas, drum sticks, and any kind of noise maker she could find to celebrate the “teacher of the month”. This teacher was nominated by a student chosen by the administrator. The administrator had the student write a short paragraph about why the educator was great and the student read the note to the teacher after surprising the teacher with a noisy classroom entrance! Whether administrators express appreciation in a fun and crazy way, in a note, in an email, or verbally, expressing gratitude regularly is important in creating a happy and productive staff.
In addition to being appreciative, it is also important that administrators empower their staff. This means encouraging teachers to take on leadership roles and to play a part in the decision making process at the school. Teachers can take on leadership roles such as mentoring, coaching, and participating in school planning committees. Teachers who are empowered and feel that they are being heard are more likely to make a positive impact on students. Want to know if your teachers feel empowered? Ask them. Send out an anonymous survey and see what you get back. If your teachers don’t feel empowered, work on implementing strategies and leadership opportunities that will allow for your teachers to participate in leadership roles at your school. You could also look at your schools Teacher Working Conditions Survey responses. This survey contains an entire section on “Teacher Leadership”. Administrators can use this data to make changes within the school and strengthen teacher leadership and empowerment.
You’ve probably heard the statement, “If you want respect, you have to earn respect”. This could be applied within the world of education and the setting of our public schools. Respect is important because it sets the stage for the entire context of the school. We want our students to respect our staff and our staff to respect our students and families. In turn, administrators must model that respect and set clear expectations for what respect looks and sounds like. Administrators can create and model a climate of respect by: listening to others, avoiding negative conversation, showing kindness and helpfulness, giving others an opportunity to voice their opinions, supporting teachers, being visible within the school, knowing the curriculum and current programs being used at the school, and making choices based on the best interest of the students. When students, families, and teachers see that administrators care about the wellbeing of everyone involved, respect will follow.
Teachers make up the largest part of the school and spend the most time with students. Research suggests that poor teacher morale can negatively affect student achievement and performance, while high teacher morale can boost student performance. A study tilted Understanding the Human Side of School Leadership: Principals’ Impact on Teachers’ Morale, Self-Efficacy, Stress, and Commitment by John Lambersky discusses the impact that the principal’s relationship with teachers has on student achievement. The study quotes Halligner and Heck (2011): “Achieving results through others is the essence of leadership… understanding the routes by which principals can improve student outcomes through working with others is itself a worthy goal for research.” It is important for administrators to consider that their actions, reactions, and words impact teacher performance, as well as student performance and engagement.
Ways to boost morale are just one web search away! There are so many ideas and resources available to today’s administrators. Here are just a few examples of how administrators can boost morale:
Kelly is an Assistant Elementary School Principal and has a Master’s in Elementary Education.