Teacher Morale Boosters
There are many free or inexpensive ways to improve teacher morale. This is especially important when finances are tight. Although a little time is required, neglecting to address the issue of morale will take more time in the long run and can be a factor contributing to difficult negotiations and low trust levels.
Teachers realize that administrators are hard-pressed for time, but a single note could make a big difference in a teacher's career. Many notes suggested below could be form letters handled by clerical staff with just the need for an administrator's signature.
Low teacher morale was one reason I resigned after just ten years in public education. No matter how much time and effort I invested in my job, which I loved, it seemed to make little difference to anyone else. The only time I heard from parents or administrators (other than my principal) was when there was a demand or complaint. "Blanket" thanks sent to every teacher are a waste of paper but a single personal note is likely to be treasured by a teacher throughout his/her entire career.
One year, I decided to do something myself to combat low morale. I made it a goal to write a "happy note" once a month to an adult in my school who I noticed doing something special. Just having that goal kept me vigilant to find something about which to comment. In one case, I wrote a thank you to a teacher who brightened my every morning with a welcoming smile. I dropped notes in teachers' boxes and the feedback was incredible. Some teachers said they kept the note in their top desk drawer to read on difficult days.
Imagine how much more a positive note would mean coming from a top administrator or school board member!
- Every week or two, call a principal and ask if there is a teacher or other staff member who has done something special "above and beyond." Get a few details about it, then write a short, specific thank you note, expressing appreciation for the person's commitment to excellence and gratitude for their being a part of the team. Send it through school mail. This is a private, individual acknowledgment. There is no need to send one to every teacher.
- When teachers are criticized in the media, write a rebuttal. Not saying anything seems like agreement.
- Curriculum specialists could send out certificates at the end of the year to teachers they've noticed really putting forth effort in their area. For example, "This is to recognize _____ for outstanding teaching in the area of _____ during the _____ school year." Giving these awards a name could give teachers something to list on a resume if ever needed. Don't give away too many of these or they won't be valued.
- Arrange for a "Teacher of the Week" spot in the city newspaper or on the District website. "The _____ district would like to recognize and commend _____ for his/her commitment to kids and quality education." List a few special projects or areas of strength of the teacher, compliments kids have written, comments from parents or other teachers. Include a photo of the teacher and his/her students.
- When seniors near graduation, encourage their English teachers to have them write to the elementary, junior high and senior high teacher from whom they learned the most. Consider sending some of these letters to the newspaper. Deliver them to recipients through school mail if they're still teaching. Perhaps include an invitation to attend graduation.
- If teachers must be moved during the first weeks of school because of changing enrollment patterns, a top administrator could send each a letter to apologize for the extra work and trouble. Teachers understand that difficult decisions have to be made sometimes but setting up a classroom twice is a great deal of trouble and those teachers put in a lot of unpaid time. It would make a big difference to be told that their extra effort is appreciated, and that although displaced, they are a valued member of the district "team." A small gift to accompany this letter, perhaps reward stickers for kids or a coffee card, would make the transition less burdensome. If someone volunteered to move, include a special thanks for that.
- "We Want to Know". Print up an attractive form for teachers to fill out and send to the Administration Building at the end of the year if they wish. Have them write one to five good things that happened in their classrooms during the year. These could be funny anecdotes or other classroom stories. Some of these could possibly be published or posted in the Administration Building. Or they could just be sent back with a "thank you" sticker affixed. For teachers who go to the extra trouble to write and send in their success stories, have a drawing and perhaps offer a prize donated by a local business.
- Write a little note to any employee who's been written up in the paper for anything, especially if it brings positive press to the district.
- Pay special attention to new teachers. Have a District-wide welcome tea after school early in the year. At the end of the first year, send a little note acknowledging them for their contribution and reaffirming that you're glad to have them on the team.
- Program a positive note into the computer to be printed on paycheck stubs. Checks for census workers have these and it leads to good feelings. Something like, "Welcome back to school. We hope you have a great year and thanks for the work you've done to get this year off to a great start!"
- Acknowledge in a personal note any teachers who have perfect attendance in any semester or year. Mention that with all the "bugs" floating around in schools, it's noteworthy not to have missed even one day of work! Wish the teacher continued excellent health.
- Send a signed card to teachers who get married, have a baby, experience a death in the family or a serious emergency. A little P.S. could say, "Thank you for all you do for kids and for the district."
- Send a note to teachers who give presentations at conventions, teach classes, or earn a degree. Commend them on their commitment to professional growth.
- Thank any teacher who writes a letter to the editor saying something positive about the district.
- Host a banquet for retiring teachers. When teachers resign or go on leave, send a thank you for what they've done to contribute to the district. Wish them well and say you're sad to see them go (assuming that's true).
- If a teacher or administrator is involved in a crisis with parents that ends up being referred to you, write to them afterwards. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and say that you appreciate them hanging in there and getting it resolved. Validate their commitment to teaching.
Go on to read Teaching with Base 10 Blocks
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony