Whatever a principal engages in should add value to student learning. This is the assumed starting point of Bambi Betts excellent article on why school principal’s need to address morale issues in schools.
Teachers in many schools routinely describe low morale as a significant issue. Whilst the issue may be perception OR reality, THIS has an effect on classroom effectiveness. Principals HAVE TO deal with this. In a fairly recent survey of both private and public school teachers in the US (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997), participants identified five key factors affecting staff morale (no order stated)
• Administrative support and leadership, or “treatment” by administrators
• Student behavior and attitudes
• A positive school atmosphere
• Teacher autonomy
• Parental support
This list provides an excellent framework for leaders in schools to reflect on factors that may be contributing to morale issues in their school.
While a morale issue may actually be just perception, it continues to impact on teacher performance and therefore effectiveness. According to Betts administrators should approach this slippery issue in the following ways:-
1. Build the notion that “positive” morale depends on the behaviors and attitudes of both teachers and administrators. There is an erroneous conception in many of our schools that “low” morale is caused by the administration and “high” morale is caused by the teachers.
2. Build pride. We need to find ways to help teachers see that no one benefits from their bad-mouthing of an institution through improper channels. This is the school they chose to work for; if the perception at large in the community is that it is poor, they, too, as employees, have everything to lose.
3. Above all, do your job. Maintain a clear vision and steps for achieving it. Keep the students at the center for your decision-making. Although all may not agree, this is the only way you keep student learning as the central issue. Practice playing out the implications of any decision all the way through to the students.
(Bambi Betts, 2011)
Remember that you are not solely responsible for the morale of the school. It is a joint responsibility of all community members. It is not something one set of people does to another.
According to Betts there are some things teachers can do to address the issue:-
1. Reexamine and critically analyze the reasons for their low morale.
2. Use legitimate channels to help administrators see another point of view.
3. Define what is energizing and uplifting to them personally and do more of these things
4. Be honest about what really matters to them in their work; what are “deal-breakers.”
I am an absolute believer in a Happy Staff being a vital attribute of an effective school. Happy staff are FAR more likely to go the extra mile for students. Teaching is a demanding profession. We need to support our best teachers so that they can be the best that they can be!
To read Bambi’s complete article click here http://www.theptc.org/articles/principalsfacemoralissues.pdf