The New York Times reports that teacher morale in the United States is at a 20 year low and I believe that may be the case in Australia too.
Key Factors Contributing to Low Teacher Morale
A number of factors are contributing to reduced levels of teacher morale. Change fatigue, increased levels of accountability, high expectations from stressed families, tight budgets and concerns about job security to name a few.
Implementing the Australian Curriculum and an increased focus on pedagogy has been both demanding and unsettling for many teachers. These changes require investments of both time and professional development funds. Both available time and funds are limited and yet so essential to maintaining teacher morale.
Increased levels of accountability are also having a negative affect on teacher morale. Teachers appear to be being treated as a political football as communities are concerned about quality outcomes for students. Whilst the research is clear, the quality of teaching that students receive is of prime importance, providing feedback to teachers is not part of the culture in many schools. Changing school culture is inherently difficult, stressful and having a negative impact on teacher morale.
High expectations add further pressure to teacher morale. The U.S study exposes “some of the insecurities fostered by the high-stakes pressure to evaluate teachers at a time of shrinking resources. About 40 percent of the teachers and parents surveyed said they were pessimistic that levels of student achievement would increase in the coming years, despite the focus on test scores as a primary measure of quality of a teacher’s work.” I believe that teachers in Australia are experiencing similar levels of pressure. The NAPLAN measures and increased transparency through the My School website are filling a void. whilst the NAPLAN measures are limited, education is vital to our society and funds invested must be having a positive impact.
Almost one in three teachers in the U.S. reported they were likely to leave the teaching profession within the next five years, either due to retirement or poor teacher morale evident in low job satisfaction. Whilst similar concerns are held for the future in Australia, an uncertain economy may force some teachers to continue to teach well after they would like to retire. Teaching is too demanding for that. Passion, energy and enthusiasm are essential qualities. Staying on for the money will not do anything for teacher morale.