An ongoing teacher shortage is causing education leaders to prioritize staff morale. The list of teacher shortage areas by state from the U.S. Department of Education quantifies the problem. It shows a teacher shortfall in many states including Michigan.
Another challenge faced by today's school leaders is high turnover. A Consortium for Policy Resource in Education study reports that more than 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. As a result, school districts struggle with recruiting new teachers. Furthermore, enrollment in teacher preparation fell by 35 percent in five years, according to NPR.
Low pay, teacher shortfalls and standardized testing affect turnover and teacher morale. Changing and increasing job demands also add to the stress of the educator's day. Improving teacher morale is a way to offset some of the stressors.
5 Ways to Boost Teacher Morale
A caring and supportive environment boosts morale and helps teachers do their best work. It also makes them want to stick around, thereby improving retention. Here are five simple steps for leaders to take:
- Get to know the teachers.
Some teachers need guidance and reassurance while others excel on their own. Knowing how teachers prefer to work helps leaders determine the best way to motivate and support them.
- Create a home away from home.
Employees spend many hours each day at school. Let them add personal touches around the school and in their classrooms to increase ownership. Consider putting flowers, plants or snacks in the teachers' lounge to brighten it and keep teachers energized. Decorating the front office and other public spaces is a way to make people feel welcome.
- Celebrate successes.
An isolated incident like a student acting out can put a damper on a teacher's day. Send a note of support to the teacher or a do a shout-out in a staff meeting. A principal who takes the time to get to know the teachers can recognize their successes outside of school, like finishing a marathon or completing a graduate program.
- Help teachers take care of themselves.
Teaching is a stressful job and managing a room full of kids can drain even the most dynamic teacher. Help your teachers out by encouraging them to get some fresh air or take a walk. Offer to cover for them while they take a break.
- Empower teachers by involving them.
Teachers don't always know about the big picture. Hold regular staff meetings to discuss top goals and priorities. This keeps all staff on the same page. If the school has challenges, discuss them. The staff may have ideas to address the challenges, or they may need information to ease their fears.
Offer support to teachers who would like to start a program or develop curricula. Provide them with a roadmap, act as a resource and encourage them to come to you when they need help.
Learn How to Better Manage Staff and Improve Morale
The above five ways provide educational leaders with actionable steps for improving morale. Those who wish to delve deeper can enroll in professional development and graduate-level courses.
For example, Eastern Michigan University's online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program includes a course on administering human resources in education. This course explores principles of managing personnel and building morale. Check with your school administration or district to learn about professional development options available to you.
Sources:U.S. Department of Education: Teacher Shortage Areas
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