Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
Teacher Morale Impacts Us All
Being a teacher is not an easy job. Teachers face pressure from families and administrators; they have to worry about test scores, students' physical and emotional wellbeing, and the pressure of adhering to stringent curriculum standards. What's more, teachers often don't receive the social status of some other professionals; we often see the media and politicians unfairly blaming teachers for all that goes wrong in education.
Therefore, it is the role of administrators, coaches, and other professionals who work in schools to help boost teacher morale. Teachers who feel good about their jobs are more effective. What's more, they feel better and spread positive feelings among their students. Additionally, they are more likely to stay in the teaching profession longer.
Talk It Over
Principal William works at an elementary school with a group of highly devoted teachers. The poverty level among students is high, and many of the students are English-language learners. Principal William feels that the teachers at his school work tirelessly to meet their students' needs.
Unfortunately, standardized test scores at Principal William's school have been low, and he has come under a great deal of pressure to get teachers to raise students' scores. He has several staff meetings during which he focuses on how to increase test scores. After these meetings, Principal William notices that morale is really low. It occurs to him that he has enacted new policies without giving teachers a chance to talk it out. Principal William holds a new meeting in which he asks teachers to voice their opinions and feelings about the test score pressure. Principal William listens carefully. He cannot honor all of the teachers' wishes, due to external pressures, but he vows to do what he can. He notices, most importantly, that just the chance to talk with him and one another about their experiences has already boosted morale. From then on, Principal William decides that when he needs to make big changes, he will talk it through with teachers as much as possible and provide support for their emotional needs.
Honor Teachers' Time and Personal Lives
Dr. Adams is a principal of a high school where teachers tend to be hard-working and enthusiastic. Dr. Adams believes in her teachers, and she believes in their professional development. At the same time, though, Dr. Adams makes sure to focus on respecting her teachers' personal lives and time. For instance, if she notices teachers staying very late, she pulls them aside and asks them if she can occasionally offer support to complete work during the school day. She is careful to ask questions regarding teachers' families, hobbies, and health. She also never asks teachers to do more professional development than she thinks is reasonable, and she is careful not to call or email them outside of the confines of the school day. Dr. Adams knows that teaching is important but that teachers are people who enjoy their work and do a better job at it when she respects their time and their lives outside of their jobs.
Notice, Notice, Notice- and Not Just Scores
Ms. Seravala is a literacy coach who works with middle school teachers on their English and Language Arts instruction. Ms. Seravala thinks that teacher morale is extremely important. Her favorite way to boost teacher morale is to get as specific as she can about noticing what the teachers she works with do well. She comments on the strength of their lessons, on student engagement level, and on their rapport with students.
Ms. Seravala knows that too often in this day and age, teachers are only commended for raising students' test scores, when in fact test scores can be the last thing teachers want to focus on. The teachers she works with always feel good when she notices the many different ways they work on their job every day.
Feed Your Teachers Well
Mr. Ingstrom is a math coach who often runs staff development workshops for teachers in his district. He thinks there are a lot of different elements involved in building teacher morale, but one tiny thing he does in each workshop he runs is bring plenty of food, give teachers a chance to play ice breakers and talk to each other, and hold as many workshops he can in fun, cozy environments.
Mr. Ingstrom understands that teaching can be isolating. By feeding the teachers he works with, he brings them closer together. He shows that he values them and enjoys the time he gets to spend with them as people, not simply professional cogs in a wheel.
Building teacher morale is very important. Administrators and coaches can help with this by giving teachers a chance to talk their problems over, respecting teachers' personal time, noticing what teachers do well, and, of course, offering a chance for food and fun!
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