With a quick introduction of why teacher morale is so important to maintain and improve, this blog post serves to give actionable, genuine tips for improving teacher morale. Start implementing them today and see positive results from your faculty staff.
Why Teacher Morale Is Important
Staff retention and teaching success are the two reasons why staff morale is important.
In a business sense, the recruitment of staff is laborious and expensive. Besides the direct cost of advert placements and agency fees, there is the subsidiary costs of lost productivity as other employees have to spend the time and energy vetting applicants and managing the interview process. This is before the HR complications of setting up new employee contracts and terms of employment, the induction process and the chance that they will be the wrong appointment and end up leaving the school shortly after they joined (whoever’s decision that may be).
All of this has ignored the more pertinent reason to be concerned with teacher morale, though it has a huge impact here too: students’ performance and the success of teaching in your school.
Breaking established rapports and routines by installing new teachers, even when it ends up going well, has a certain settling in and bedding down period. Especially in unruly schools.
But less visible, yet no less detrimental to attainment levels, is the effect that low staff morale has on student progress. Engagement and enthusiasm from staff will fall and this will only take results with them.
So this is why it’s important that you get some tips to improve teacher morale.
1. Holistic Attitude For Staff Too
Promoting a holistic, caring attitude probably gets mentioned in every prospectus and on every school website up and down the country. But this isn’t always delivered. And, unfortunately, especially not when it comes to staff.
The intense pressure to maintain academic results, fulfill curriculum demands and an ever looming OFSTED can cause the holistic attitude being afforded to staff to be one of the first things to be gotten rid of. But if you want to increase teacher morale, it should be adopted. Quickly.
Teachers need downtime too. Try to build in some slack in their timetables and curriculum, regularly. Informal assemblies or tutor time are a great start. Some fun and productive “getting to know each other” sessions can be great for both teachers and students. Explain that it is as much for teaching staff to be happy at work as it is for settling new students into their surroundings and (playfully, albeit sincerely) ban staff from letting students play on their phones or the computers whilst they get on with marking.
Other ideas include: weekly free tea and toast in the staff room, less staff meetings and trying to develop a staff culture where teachers work together rather than in isolation (both in class and in planning).
2. Promote A Culture Of A Healthy Work-Life Balance
Leading on from developing a holistic way of thinking at your school, it’s then vital to promote a healthy work-life balance amongst staff. With many teachers working a 60 hour week, regularly, even with the longer than average mid-term, summer, Easter and Christmas breaks, teachers still struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Especially those with families of their own.
Part of this could need an education led change. Hold staff training to highlight the benefits of avoiding “binge working” and “binge holiday-ing”. Instead, suggest avoiding working at full tilt during term time in order to take the full holiday period to yourself when school is closed, and instead aim to spread work more rationally. This will help avoid burnout and exhaustion towards the end of half-terms and keep morale and energy levels more consistent. This is good for teachers and pupils.
This can be aided by pairing staff together with those who don’t normally work or socialise together to make sure they aren’t overloaded with work apart from at absolutely crucial times (there’s no point being naive enough to pretend that coursework and exam season won’t see your staff burning the midnight oil). But once it becomes the norm to work well into the night and at weekends, morale will start to suffer.
3. Two Way Culture
This leads us to the third tip; developing a two culture of communication (and this relates to the next couple of tips). Staff need to be able to talk to department heads, deputy headteachers and headteachers about their workload, students and general worklife. As well as, if necessary, their personal issues.
The latter is more of a separate HR issue, but to deal with the former, try to make sure senior staff have productive lines of dialogue with other staff. They need to be able to chat openly to find out if pending lesson observations are causing undue stress, whether there are any concerns about staff roles next academic year, whether enough time is being offered for CPD and training. And this should also be done as to encourage staff to share said concerns without being prompted.
4. Minimise Extra Work
This involves building trust and a good way of doing that is to minimise extra work. Teachers are often left feeling that every staff meeting, briefing from the head or staff training day just results in having to more work in addition to their teaching tasks.
Recording and creating paper trails is all well and good, but is all of it absolutely necessary? Could department leaders manage the whole process as opposed to each individual teacher? Or could you offer a selection of ways to complete the new recording requirements?
Doing this would offer the perception of choice and make this new task more palatable. As will not always having staff leaving whole school meetings with yet more paperwork to complete.
5. Trust And Open Door Policy
And, then, as this trust builds and develops, you can work towards an open door policy. Whether that literally means teaching with an open door is up to you, but at least figuratively speaking, everyone’s door should always be (able to be) open(ed).
Senior leadership can often feel too busy and too detached from regular teaching staff. But the chance to have a 5 minute chat, offer advice, promise to pass on the concerns to the governors, or whatever, can do a lot to make teachers feel more valued and part of the school they teach in.
Then, it can also allow senior leadership to do the same thing in return. Nipping into classrooms and staff rooms to gather feedback, eat lunch or just passively observe a lesson (do you conduct learning walks?) will put everybody at ease.
This will breed an atmosphere of trust across the whole teaching staff. Nobody has anything to hide and there is no risk of a “them and us” attitude developing between teaching staff and senior leadership.
Sometimes, a little downtime is just what everybody needs. If a teacher or student was off for an afternoon due to illness, would the school fall apart? No. And pupil’s final grades wouldn’t be harmed.
If teacher morale is so low that you are searching for this blog post, try something radical like downing tools and doing something completely off curriculum for an afternoon or a day. Especially when it’s timed right – such as during the long-slog towards Easter during the first half of Spring term – it can give a real boost. Here are some ideas;
- Send students back to tutor groups (and let staff choose a tutor group if they aren’t a tutor) and set a quiz, task or competition of some sort and offer prizes for the winners.
- Whichever class students are in when your push the downtime button, have them work with that teacher to complete a task of some sort and meet back in the assembly hall to feed back what they’ve done.
- Drop Everything And Read is a great way to offer some respite whilst also offering educational benefits – as well as little time for teachers to either get to know their students better by reading along with them or catching up on some marking.
- Plan end of term events with teachers helping the students to devise a way of raising money for charity as part of their end of term reward.
- Use it for admin tasks, because things such as choosing your next library books, filling out UCAS applications, researching colleges and apprenticeships all become arduous tasks that can get put back until the very last moment. It’s still a productive way for teachers to direct student time – but is largely pressure free for your teachers, who will appreciate a little easing off the gas for an afternoon.
8. Worthwhile CPD
Another vital element for boosting teacher morale is to make sure that all CPD and staff training is worthwhile. Whether you have the resources for external speakers or not, it’s vital that you ensure all training offered isn’t just a box ticking exercise.
Many a great sounding staff meeting has produced some brilliant ideas in practice, that never end up being followed through. Ask yourselves, will this actually be implemented? If the answer is likely to be “no”, then the training time could be better spent.
Should it be implemented? If it’s a “yes”, then something needs to give in teacher’s current routines.
Also, for the avoidance of doubt, when you decide on CPD topics, ask whether teacher’s time spent in training is being used most effectively. If not, shorten it and make how it’s delivered more efficient. Staff will appreciate it.
And, finally, encourage staff to attend external CPD as much as possible, as long as it’s worthwhile and reputable. They can always feed back to other staff and, if needs be, you could ask that they sign disclaimers which state that if they leave the school in x number of years they have to pay y% of the CPD cost back to the school.
9. Freedom To Experiment
Point 8 relies on trusting your staff to be honest with what new recording features or trained techniques they can incorporate into their working schedule. You will have to trust them on that. Likewise – and it’s another great way to improve teacher morale, albeit a slow burner – so is giving staff the freedom to experiment.
Teaching outdoors, teaching in different classrooms, using unorthodox techniques should all be encouraged. It will make lessons more memorable for students and push teachers out of their comfort zone. It might sound risky if morale is already low, but it should re-ignite – if it ever went out – that creative spark that drew these people into being teachers in the first place.
The freedom to be creative in order to inspire and engage their learners.
And having senior leadership’s backing to try out these ideas means that they are left feeling valued and respected. Especially if it fails once or twice but they are confident it will come good and are trusted to keep going with an idea they believe in.
10. An Environment To Be Proud Of
And they’ll be proud to work at a school that allows them to be creative in how they teach their students. Especially if the surroundings match the forward thinking that goes through the minds of those that work there.
There are a host of different measures that can be employed to make a school environment more positive to be working in: from upgrading heating systems down to refreshing furniture. Once a school decides to offer its teachers a renewed environment to work in, it shows it cares about their surroundings, happiness and well being whilst at work. The morale and results will follow.
Read on in this free guide to find out more about school refurbishments. The guide includes documents to help you gauge staff morale, find out what works and what doesn’t in your building, and see what needs to be done to correct any issues (and how to go about it).