The status of teaching has declined and this will have serious consequences for Australia’s future. No education system can be better than its teachers. In combination, the low status of teaching and low morale of many teachers result in the profession failing to attract many of the ‘best and brightest’ candidates for teaching. Many teachers would not recommend teaching as a profession to their children.
According to the 2013 Teacher Status Index developed by the Varkey GEMS Foundation. “In many countries teachers no longer retain the elevated status that they used to enjoy. Consequently, its effects are profoundly damaging to the life chances of the next generation. If teachers aren’t respected in society, children won’t listen to them in class, parents won’t reinforce the messages that are coming from school and the most talented graduates will continue to disregard teaching as a profession. Over time, this declining respect for teachers will weaken teaching, weaken learning, damage the learning opportunities for millions and ultimately weaken societies around the world.”
What Can School Leaders Do?
1. Highlight the importance of our work in schools
Staff working in schools have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, every day. We work in the people business and at times people can be unpredictable. Schools in many instances are the hub of the wider community. However we never quite know what is going on in somebody else’s life. They may be facing health issues, be experiencing relationship difficulties or be under financial pressure, we never quite know the challenges that others take. We therefore shouldn’t take their concerns personally. We need to focus on doing the best job that we can with the time, energy and resources available. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
2. Increase your visibility
Being a school leader is difficult and demanding with many priorities competing for our time. In particularly busy periods we can become ‘invisible’ to our staff. We can get stuck in our office or be out of the school at meetings. Our apparent absence has an impact on staff morale. Staff need to feel supported, especially at the crazy busy time at the end of the year. Investing a small amount of time can be really beneficial in ensuring staff feel supported eg – spending a short amount of time walking around the school before classes, visiting classrooms briefly to positively acknowledge staff, eating with staff at lunch time and being at the front gate to acknowledge students and parents and put out any ‘bushfires’ at 3 pm.
3. Praise Often
The more specific and indivisualised the praise, the better. Whilst broad praise for a whole team is better than no praise, providing specific, personalised recognition of an individual is powerful. This doesn’t have to be public praise as that can set people up on a pedestal that leads to resentment by others. Just as we do to encourage students, we should praise the behaviour we want to see more of.
4. Refine Our Communication skills
Focus on being a really good listener. At times when we are busy we don’t really listen to people. We rush from one conversation to the next, half listening to what they say and half listening for them to pause so that we can tell them what we think they should do and then rush off to the next task. Slowing down and trying to really listen can make a huge difference to the level of trust and support our staff experience.
5. Match Appreciation To Your Staff Member’s Motivation
Different people have different motivators or drivers. What motivates or drives one person will not be a motivator for others. The first step is to you’re your staff well enough to know what are their main drivers. Whilst Some people are motivated by reward and would appreciate some free movie tickets as a reward. Others are motivated by work-life balance and would be appreciative of cancelling a staff meeting to allow them to get home earlier in this busy period. Some people are motivated by opportunity and would appreciate their leadership traits being recognised and some acknowledgement that you will look for and support them in taking up a promotional position in the future.
6. Share stories
Working in schools can be demanding. It is important that we share stories of some of the fun things that happen at school as well as our successes. At times students do and say the funniest things. Recollecting these stories can lighten the mood and refocus us on the people side of our work. Of course sharing these stories shouldn’t be at the student’s expense or be disparaging.
7. Celebrate our successes
Most educators are quick to dismiss positive results and we spend little time celebrating our successes. Part of this may be because we are ‘trained’ to identify problems. We look for students who are having difficulty understanding or learning because then we can put a strategy in place to address the deficit. We are quick to identify behaviour issues because we can then develop a plan to address the problem. Our antennas are well tuned to negative things because we are trained problem solvers. It is important that we celebrate the good things that happen. Improved results, student and staff successes, community recognition and the progress that we make on change initiatives are just some examples where celebrations are warranted.
One final piece of advice at this time of the year comes form Stephen Covey….Finish Strong!!!
It is easy at the beginning of the school year to be resilient, patient and upbeat. At the end of the year we can be running low on reserves of energy and patience. One sharp word or flippant comment now, can undo our great work thoughout the year to build trusting partnership with colleagues, students and families.
It is vital at the end of the school year to choose a positive attitude, to be upbeat and confident that the work we do in schools is making a difference to the students and families we work with. That’s why we have made it a tradition at Happy School to always send out the Finish Strong Happy School article in November.
Did You Get a Great Response to YOUR Handwritten Postcards?
Hopefully by the time you are reading this you will already have had a great response from your staff to having sent the handwritten cards to mark World Teachers’ Day. Thanks for being part of this initiative. This year over 13000 teachers (and support staff in schools) will have received them.
This Month’s Happy School articles include:
- How to Rewire Your Burned Out Brain (part 2)
- Finish Strong
- Dealing With Difficult Parents
- Happy Tonic
Subscribe now and join the 560 schools who are already boosting staff morale and reducing teacher stress as members of Happy School. Reply to this email and ask us to set up your membership. It costs less than ONE supply teacher day!
Conferences and Work With Schools
This month I’m looking forward to working with:-
- Coomera Springs SS leaders
- Highland Reserve SS leaders
- St Mary’s Mackay staff PD
- SBMAQ webinars
- QASSP webinars
I’d be happy to talk with you about the professional development needs of your leadership team or whole staff.
The fastest way to improve your school and boost staff satisfaction is to identify and address the problems that annoy and frustrate people. SurveyMySchool has been specifically designed to support the leadership team to IMPROVE schools. The interactive format of the surveys identifies specific issues and potential solutions.
SurveyMySchool is far more useful than school opinion surveys that only provides data. Whilst having data is a good start, data alone can be misinterpreted and isn’t helpful in addressing people’s specific concerns.
SurveyMySchool is interactive. Respondents who express dissatisfaction with an aspect of the school are asked clarifying questions to provide further detail about their specific concern and potential solutions. The survey report provides useful information to inform school planning, improve the school and increase the satisfaction of staff.
See the attached information sheet on Survey My School or contact us directly to set up a survey of staff, parents and/or students.