It’s no secret that teaching is hard. The teaching profession requires a thick skin, resilience, and determination. Even pre-pandemic, under “normal” conditions, teaching was a challenging profession – increasing pressure from parents, changing curricular goals and standards, larger class sizes – but as the pandemic radically changes how schools operate, teachers have been caught once again in the crossfire.
When schools first shifted to remote learning in the spring of 2020, teachers were lauded as heroes. But that narrative shifted quickly, and teachers once again started bearing the brunt of pressure from all stakeholders – from administrators who needed them to be flexible and pivot quickly, from parents with strong opinions over how their children are educated, and from students as they readjusted to a school structure amidst learning gaps academically, socially, and emotionally. It’s no surprise then that teacher morale is at an all-time low. According to a poll from the National Education Association in January 2022, 90% of respondents said that feeling burned out is a serious problem, and 55% reported that they will leave teaching sooner than they had originally planned.
Teacher morale and student achievement are closely connected, so it’s critical that administrators prioritize boosting teacher morale. Below are some ideas for how to boost teacher morale at your school.
Boost Teacher Morale: Two Easy Ways
It takes more than a gift during Teacher Appreciation Week to boost teacher morale. Unfortunately, most of the changes needed to dramatically improve teacher morale may not be straightforward fixes – for example, paying teachers at least a living wage, providing benefits like health care and parental leave, providing resources for classrooms so that teachers don’t need to go out of pocket, and managing expectations around role and responsibilities to ensure that teachers are working reasonable hours. But when these fixes are not immediately available (though we encourage you to examine these conditions in your district), there are practices that districts and schools can implement to boost teacher morale.
Team Building to Boost Teacher Morale
Improving teacher morale with team building can strengthen the collaboration across a teaching staff. Schools often designate team meetings for professional development or curriculum planning, but team-building activities can deepen trust, improving collaboration and support amongst staff. Team building could mean exercises and activities specifically designed to foster teamwork, but it could also include opportunities to simply connect outside of work. Happy hours, staff outings, or sponsored lunches can all be events that bring staff together and allow them to bond.
What’s important to remember is that team-building activities to boost teacher morale should focus on showing appreciation and respect for teachers and how hard they work. Teaching is a skilled, licensed profession, and many teachers have master’s degrees. Ensure that your efforts to recognize them and care for their morale match the expertise of their profession.
Use Gratitude to Boost Teacher Morale
Another powerful way to boost teacher morale and motivate teachers is to create avenues for teachers to receive gratitude from students on a regular basis. School-wide gratitude practices or teacher recognition can go a long way, for example, make a note of teacher’s birthdays and coordinate cards from students throughout the school. You can even ask students to brainstorm ideas to show appreciation for their teachers more regularly. The sky’s the limit, and nothing feels better as a teacher than knowing you are positively impacting your students.
Why is teacher morale important?
While it is always useful to show appreciation for teachers, most teachers don’t enter the profession looking for praise or personal accolades. Teachers teach because it is a calling, a deep desire to make people’s lives better. Teachers plant seeds of inspiration, hope, and encouragement in students that may not bloom for years after a student leaves their classroom. Ask any adult which teacher had the biggest impact on their life, and they likely light up as they recall the words or actions that stuck with them over the years, and how meaningful those experiences still are today.
Teachers can change the way students see themselves in the world, a powerful gift to give another person. When teachers are lucky, they’ll hear from students years down the road, but often teachers do what they do knowing they aren’t going to see any immediate result. Sure, grades and pass rates are tangible, but most teachers don’t teach because they are motivated and inspired by a great pass rate; it’s the impact on students that matters.
Teachers need advanced training, technical skills, and a series of credentials to be able to teach, but teachers also need to be emotionally intelligent, vulnerable, and empowered in their humanity in order to connect with students and impact lives. Whether teaching 5-year olds or 15 year olds, children require the safety and security of a stable adult to support their growth and development – not just academically but socially and emotionally. When teacher morale is high, teachers have more patience, are happier, and are more enthusiastic throughout the day. Students take their cues from teachers, so high teacher morale can also lead to high student morale.
Administrators should always remember how challenging it is to be a teacher, especially emotionally. Educators experience the highs and lows of their students too, and when they go home at night their students stay on their minds – rethinking a new teaching approach to help a student understand a challenging concept, worrying about the student who has a sick parent who has been absent all week, processing the sadness that comes from a difficult IEP meeting where you learn difficult truths about a student’s life.
The school day is full of tiny moments like these, and teachers absorb and carry these emotional moments with them day in and day out, year after year. Administrators and communities need to always remember and acknowledge the difficult work that teachers do, and honor the importance of this work in helping students grow into happy and healthy adults. The best way to boost teacher morale is to fully see and acknowledge the totality of what teachers do, how important their work is, and how much we all rely on them.
The Nation’s Leading SEL Company
Move This World is the leading provider of social emotional learning (SEL) multimedia experiences for students, teachers, and families. Our SEL programs are customized for PreK-12 students and are delivered through short interactive lessons with the goal of empowering students to navigate the rapidly-changing realities of their world – both in the classroom and throughout their lives. The impactful yet simple Move This World SEL curriculum allows educators and families to incorporate Social Emotional Learning into their schedules every day, without planning or prep.
Contact us to learn more about SEL Grants and bringing Social Emotional Learning to your classroom.