Guest post by Tara Rosipal
Administrators spend lots of time and energy creating a positive and caring student culture. Although important, what about teacher culture? How do we as school leaders help teachers stay positive and keep their morale high?
On its best days, teaching is demanding. On its worst days, it is downright draining and exhausting. According to the Learning Policy Institute, teachers in the last decade have left the profession—well before retirement age—at an alarming rate of eight percent. Those who remain are continually asked to meet the changing demands of education. Educators love their jobs and students, but sometimes it is just overwhelming! Teacher burnout is real and even the best, most dedicated teachers wonder how long they can keep going.
It is our job as school leaders to create a positive, caring, and supportive environment for our teachers. What can we do to support our teachers and keep them in the classroom? Here are a few simple ideas that have helped maintain a positive outlook for our teachers at North Middle School:
Get to Know Your Teachers as People
It sounds simple and it is. Just like students, teachers appreciate it when you get to know them and their lives outside of the school. Take the time to talk to your teachers about their lives. Learn the names of their significant others and children. Ask about their interests and hobbies, and even give shoutouts to their personal accomplishments at staff meetings. Did a teacher recently run a marathon? Star in the community theater’s recent production of “Grease?” Fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Antarctica? Whatever it is, share it proudly. Teachers who know that their administrators care about them as people are more cooperative and have a more positive outlook about their jobs.
Respect Teacher Time
Time is in short supply for everyone. Find ways to minimize disruptions to that time for your teachers. If you can end a staff meeting 10 minutes early, do it. Avoid having a meeting if the information can be provided another way. If you can avoid back-to-back days of modified bell schedules, do it. Any time you give your teachers the gift of time, it will be met with many thanks and appreciation.
Have a Little Fun
Find time to have some fun with your teachers and encourage them to socialize with one another. Whether it is sharing the latest humorous teaching video, recounting a hilarious story, or filling out a March Madness bracket, these small acts can pay off in big ways in building friendly and good-natured relationships among the staff. Plan a quarterly luncheon where all staff members share the meal and take time to appreciate professional friendships. Remind your teachers that laughter is healthy.
Help Teachers Meet Their Personal Needs
Teachers are great at taking care of others and putting their needs last. An easy way to boost spirits is to find ways to help your teachers take care of themselves throughout the school day. Encourage them to go for a walk, get a drink of water, or get outside for five minutes to see some sunshine. Offer to cover a class when a teacher needs a bathroom break or needs to take care of a quick personal matter. Even teachers need a little TLC every now and then.
Focus on the Positive and Celebrate Success
Teachers and administrators alike can get stuck in a cycle of negativity and only see what’s wrong in the school. Too often we let one unruly student make us forget to see the 24 other students in the class doing exactly what we told them to do. Look for what’s going right in your school, for your teachers and with your students. When you notice these positive moments, let your teachers know with a simple note, shoutout at a staff meeting, or even a tweet on social media. Taking the time to recognize your teachers’ hard work and passion will encourage and motivate them.
Building a caring and supportive culture for teachers will pay off in numerous ways. Improved morale can lead to better teamwork, more productivity, and greater staff retention. When teachers feel connected to their schools and colleagues, they will enjoy their jobs more, making the work and challenges less daunting. Happy teachers make for happy students. Positive attitudes are contagious and promote student learning, self-confidence, and overall enjoyment of school.
What do you do to build teacher morale and create a positive culture for your staff?
Tara Rosipal is an associate principal at North Middle School in Great Falls, MT, serving an average of 750 seventh and eighth graders each school year. Tara has 23 years in education, the last 11 at NMS. Tara is the 2015 Montana Assistant Principal of the Year.