Thursday, March 4, 2010

Morale...Get Some!

In my second year of teaching I dreaded going to work...every single day. Hated it. Wanted to be somewhere else each of those 180 days. It wasn't my classes. I had some of the best kids that year. It wasn't my responsibilities or grading or anything even remotely related to my teaching. It was a teacher. A teacher in my grade. She was on my team, right next door to me. She was a major downer. She hated her job. And even worse, she made sure everyone around her hated theirs too. I didn't want to hate my job though. I liked teaching. I would get up in the morning and feel so excited about the day, until she came in. I wondered why she was still around if she hated things so much. 

I allowed her to control me and my feelings and my morale. 

This week on #edchat the topic centered around teacher morale, what can be done in situations when it is low and what do classrooms and school look like when morale is high. 

Here is just a taste of what was said:

  • Low teacher morale creates atmosphere of teachers "clocking in & doing time"; innovation does not happen when teachers don't feel safe.
  • Teacher morale can be contagious. We must surround ourselves with positive others with good sense of humor.
  • Supported and empowered teachers are more likely to have high morale.
  • I find that the kids are the best way to boost my morale...reminds me why I teach.
  • The morale of an organization will only be as high as its leader. Low teacher morale is the result of low leadership morale.
  • My morale would be boosted by recognition for hard work. When I became NBCT, only congrats I got was blurb in district newsletter.
  • My PLN is a morale boost for me everyday!
I encourage you to take time and read the archive to really understand the full conversation.

Here are some of my thoughts...

Morale can make or break a building. When morale is high, teachers think they can teach anything, any way, any how. They are unstoppable. And that rubs off on the kids. When students see teachers who are happy to be in the classroom and enjoy what they are doing, the kids follow along. 


On the other hand, when morale is low everyone suffers. Imagine a whole building of teachers just like the one who taught next to me. Or a building where no one wants to be and hates everything. That also translates to the classroom. In every school I have every worked in I can recall the teachers who had the lowest morale. And those were the teachers who complained the most about test scores being low and student discipline. 

If the teacher is unhappy, the kids are unhappy. And when kids are unhappy there isn't any learning going on. 

So, who is responsible for morale in a school? Is it the administration? Is it the teachers? I think it is a combination of both. The administration helps to drive morale in the building. They are the cheerleaders and should do all they can to keep it high. And it is the little things. Slipping a note in a teachers box everyday. Or a simple pat on the back when they do something awesome. Think of things that make you feel better and try to do that for teachers. 

But teachers can also help boost morale in their buildings. Negativity is a morale killer. We all understand that you are gonna have a bad day and that it helps to vent. But do it in the right ways. Bad mouthing administrators or policy do nothing to make everyone feel better about being in the building. I am not saying you have to agree with everything that goes on but disagree in constructive ways. 

Look, the point is, just what I said before. Morale can make or break a building. Be excited about what you do every day. It rubs off on people. 

Be awesome today!

Image from Google CC Search


  1. Well said! I recognize a tweet or two of mine there :-)( @flourishingkids) I have been thinking as well about morale since edchat the other day and have committed myself to being more positive role with my peers. I work with quite a few teachers who are frustrated, angry and act helpless instead of taking an action to help themselves. I vent like everyone else, but try to come to a place where I think of what to do about the issue. When I am upset with a decision, I think about my role, explore my options, and talk with my principal behind closed doors. Others are not so brave though I hope to influence them to do so! You are so right though. We must create the daily environment we want to see. Idealistic? maybe, but we have a tough enough job without making it harder with negativity. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Steven, Great post. We are battling some morale issues in my school this year and it has made for some pretty frustrating days. The students can absolutely feel it and understand what's going on. I've had some amazing discussions with one of my classes about what's going on in the school and they were very quick to tell me about those teachers they've had that didn't care or hated their job. They mentioned how de-motivated they became while in these teachers' classrooms. One student stated "When teachers are excited about being here, it makes us feel good and want to work hard." I think that sums it up perfectly.

  3. OK, I want to "read the archive" in the Edchat. Could ya help a newbe tweeter and tell me how? Please?

  4. can click the archive link or you can just visit Cheers!

  5. This post is right on! In my building we have some real "Debbie Downers" that always feel like bringing everyone else down. We all get a little frustrated at times in a school building but it shouldn't affect the learning of the students or others in the building. As a librarian I hear a lot of the students talk about some of the teachers they've had and which ones they enjoy having in class, the positive educators are always the classes the students enjoy and take the most out of. Great post!

  6. I love the image you found, made me laugh out loud!
    Morale is tricky, one bad apple can ruin the whole bushel, as you experienced. But, one cheerful, passionate teacher can also turn a school around. We are experiencing a major lack of morale at my school right now. It is draining. I feel lucky to have my PLN to keep me boosted and going but one foot in the building and you can feel it weighing on you. I can't identify exactly what the problem is but the feeling is definitely there.
    It takes everyone working together to improve the morale of a school. I don't think the responsibility falls solely on the teachers or the administration. We should all work together toward a positive end.

  7. I agree with Kelly, one bad apple can ruin the whole bushel so we have to continue to keep working with that bad apple and not shy away. The responsibilities placed on teachers can be a very heavy load and we have to be good listeners and offer support and encouragement on a daily basis. Great Post!

  8. I just found your Blog and I am so excited ... it is so important to find a community of like-minded educators to help keep the sight-lines high.

    Times are beyond tough in California schools right now ... we are all just trying to focus on the moment ... on the difference we can make with our students and colleagues today.

    With pink-slips looming it can be easy to fall into useless rumination ... my PLN is a lifeline - it keeps me out of the morass ...

  9. I've been teaching for over 16 years now and have had my good days and bad. You have to cherish the gems. Whether it is a downer colleague, administrator, parent, or student, you have to rely on the good moments. The moments that make you say, "Now this is why I am a teacher!" The grass is never greener on the other side. And although I sometimes I have those days where I think I want to change professions, deep down I know that what I do is making a difference in the world, one child at a time!