“The school board doesn’t like us. The superintendent doesn’t like us. The parents don’t like us. Everyone is mad at us.
I don’t want to be a teacher anymore.”
These days, everyone has an opinion on how public schools should be run. Teachers are caught in the middle, adding even more pressure and stress to their roles.
Is it any wonder that teacher morale is at its lowest in decades, maybe ever?
Improving teacher morale is about addressing the root causes and the stress teachers feel during a time of intense crisis, while also being parents, caregivers, husbands and wives, etc.
While hot-cocoa bombs for school staff, or bags of goldfish pretzels saying “You’re O-Fish-ally a Grade-A Teacher” are nice to receive, if you want to truly improve and sustain morale, teachers need genuine support and meaningful resources from their leaders.
Here are three simple and authentic steps to take toward improving teacher morale in your building, district or community:
1. Give your teachers a voice.
Send a survey to solicit feedback from teachers specifically about the challenges and concerns of the job. Make the survey anonymous so they have a safe space to express frustrations and fears. Be brave! You know what questions to ask to get the really raw emotions out . . . ask even if you’re a little afraid of the answer! Feeling appreciated in a professional setting always starts with being heard.
2. Solve something small but specific for your teachers.
Find something--anything!--in the survey responses that you can fix. It might be a small policy change within your control, or it might be an administrative resource that off-loads a repetitive function from your staff.
The change needs to be based on the feedback you received. But the action of supporting teachers speaks so much louder than the words saying “I support you.” Solve one thing, no matter how small and no matter for how few, and overall morale will spike.
3. Keep teacher "appreciation" connected to their work.
Gifts, freebies and “perks” are always nice to receive. But they do very little to sustain or improve workplace morale when disconnected from the performance of the profession.
Tie the delivery or announcement of the perk to a team or individual achievement, no matter how small or inconsequential. Teachers--like any other professionals--feel motivated and boosted by knowing their work is good, is seen, and is appreciated.
Teachers need our help more than ever as we contemplate a post-covid future, and sustaining morale for the educator community can improve long-term retention, job satisfaction, and professional resiliency. It all starts with authentic engagement.