Teaching is demanding, even on the best of days. On the worst of days, teaching is just exhausting. In 2015, the National Commision on Teaching and America’s Future stated, “46 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years.” Fast-forward three years, and this stat is still lingering in the 40 to 50 percent range. Nearly two-thirds of teachers leave their position for other reasons than retirement. The attrition rate is incredibly high. The shortage of teachers is creating a demand for teachers who are not as qualified, lack the experience needed, and ultimately sets those up for failure. Even for the most experienced educator, teacher burnout is real.
Fixing the issue might go beyond your hands. Even partially mending the issue requires more than a single action. However, creating an environment of high retention and boosting morale is key to keeping our teachers happy and excited about their work.
Good administrators recognize that educators have a range of needs to be successful. You take responsibility for knowing when a teacher needs help and helping them find the resources to assist them. This can range anywhere from a new teacher who may be struggling and needs some guidance from a senior teacher who needs a quick 30- minute break once a week to catch up on paperwork. As the leader, you can help your teachers out in more ways than one. All it requires is knowing what they need to succeed.
“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”
Did you read the quote above? This sums up exactly why you need to be celebrating your staff’s successes. Nothing boosts teacher morale more than the recognition of their work. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures of appreciation. Small recognition for daily tasks shows that you, as the administrator, care and see the little things.
Boost your teacher morale by noticing the small wins. Give teachers a simple note, a shoutout during a meeting, or even an in-person thank you. Taking the time to recognize achievements will motivate your staff to focus on the positive.
Develop strong mentoring and induction programs to increase teacher retention. This can help slow down the revolving door of beginning teacher turnover. Experienced educators can help new teachers by being a support system. Anything from providing instructional support to being a listening ear, mentors can help guide new and struggling teachers. This can improve teacher morale in new and experienced teachers by creating a community of support.
Get to know your staff. Knowing your faculty’s needs and wants go far. But you can only know this information by getting to know each member. It’s important to ask questions and know a little more about their personal life than just work. There is a fine line between knowing your teachers and being their best friend. Taking an interest in your staff builds trust and lets them know you care about them as individuals and not just as teachers.
Encourage teachers to voice problems, advice, or suggestions to you. You are the primary decision maker of your school. However, teachers should be encouraged to give their input. Give your staff a platform to express their feelings and give their suggestions.
Going hand in hand with giving teachers a voice, encourage them to also bring problems to you. Have an open door policy that fosters open communication. Giving teachers a voice and an outlet to bring issues forward can help ease their stress. Often, teachers just need a good listening ear when it comes to matters.
However, some issues may be larger and need more than a listening ear. When it comes to this, listen and let your teacher know you will need to think about the issue and get back to them with your decision.
Having an open door policy will boost teacher morale, and give you insight to possible issues and problems other teachers may be experiencing.
Increase teacher morale by letting your staff understand your goal and the “big picture.” As a leader, you need to give your team a purpose. By doing this, you are engaging your faculty.
As mentioned in Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, great companies are built by placing the right people in the right seats on the bus. Running a school is similar to running a company. You need to start with the right people on the bus before you drive into the direction you want to go.
Genuinely respect teachers and their time. Teachers have a lot happening throughout their day, and that doesn’t include their personal lives outside of the classroom. Adding extra weight to their overflowing plates could be more detrimental than useful. Use your judgment and cancel meetings well ahead of time to give your staff a free hour or two to catch up. If you can’t cancel a meeting, plan the meeting accordingly, so there isn’t any wasted time.
Show your teachers you trust them. Whether a teacher wants to build an after-school program or a counselor wants to develop new resources, show them your trust. By showing your trust you are allowing your staff to flex their autonomy. As the leader, be there for support and stand as a resource. But give them the space to decide on how much acceleration to give or when to break.
Morale is the end product of empowering teachers to make decisions. It is said that 66% of employees are likely to leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated. Not to mention that 54% of management agree that it is common for staff to quit due to lack of recognition. From a leader’s standpoint, morale is built upon acknowledgment. Boost teacher morale through respect, appreciation, and recognition.