There are certain times of the school year when staff morale always seems to dip. The school year often starts full of promise and everyone is excited to welcome the students back to school. As the year proceeds there will be times when staff morale seems to fall. We think it happens at every school and it probably part of human nature and the cycle of school years. However, this does not mean principals should simply shrug their shoulders and say oh well. There are many things principals can do to address staff morale throughout the year.
When we think of sustaining staff morale we do not turn to the obvious things like free lunch right away (although who doesn’t love a free lunch!). There are other much more important things that directly impact staff morale. The first and probably most important is a crystal clear focus on what is important. When people are aware of the goals and expectations they can focus themselves. This does not mean everyone will always agree with the goals and expectations, but everyone needs to know them. It can be extremely tough to be a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, etc…and not have a clear picture of the goals (mission, vision). People often talk about how stressful it is for principals – we can tell you it is much more stressful for teachers/staff to work for a principal who does not have a clear focus.
We are finishing our first full year at our school. It has been a time to listen, learn and build our focus. We put in some fundamental frameworks for teachers – how we think instruction and learning should occur, how we think PLC’s operate and things of that nature. We created a document titled, “Elements of an Effective Lesson” with these expectations and tied all of our feedback to this document. We tried to be as clear as possible with everything we did. Now it is time to build our vision and mission WITH our faculty/staff. We will be doing this in a few weeks at our staff retreat. This is going to be crucially important. We could easily say here is our vision and mission – go forth and conquer. But, it would remain our vision and mission and not the entire school’s vision and mission. It takes longer this way but we feel it will yield better results.
Another crucial component of staff morale is holding everyone accountable. Nothing irks a high performing teacher more than realizing how hard they work while the person down the hall that does nothing, learns nothing, contributes nothing, etc.. is not held accountable. If we allow our low performing faculty/staff to continue without intervention/support we are failing our high performing teachers. If you can watch a peer do nothing, learn nothing, contribute nothing and get away with it all then why should you continue to work so hard. We recently underwent Advanc-Ed accreditation and our teachers reported through the survey that they feel we have a clear focus and hold people accountable. We were delighted to see this as we think these are the two key components!
When we decided on this post we wanted to talk about fun ways to develop and maintain staff morale. Once we started talking about it we knew there was so much more. However, we still try to do fun things now and then because we feel it does help morale and it’s just fun! We do the usual things – free meals, goodies in their boxes, etc… However, we have also been able to do some other things for our teachers. This is the second consecutive summer where we will be having a staff retreat. Our teachers are paid for their time during the retreat. We need to treat them as the professionals they are and this is one of the ways we can show it. We have received a sizable grant that will allow us to send our teachers to conferences and schools to see what others are doing. Teachers often do not get the chance go out and see other successful classrooms/schools.On the last day of school for teachers we put together a little skit to music as we “reminisced” about the school year (we were sure to include all the funny things that happened during the year).
Finally, we try to do a video message to our staff occasionally. We act silly and try to have fun. It is important to allow others to see you as a real person. We are real people so why try to hide it. Here is one of them. Enjoy and remember to not laugh at us!!