Four Easy, Cost-Effective Strategies to Boost Teacher Morale
Recently, we asked more than 500 educators how they felt their school administrators could better support them. In that survey, when asked how they could be better supported over the entirety of the school year, 31 percent of educators also indicated they would like to see their school culture improve. One easy way to cultivate a supportive and positive school culture is to show recognition and appreciation for the people who work together to make up your community.
Aside from providing a rigorous academic environment, keeping the community engaged, and dealing with the moving target of budgeting, administrators are also tasked with making sure that schools are welcoming, positive workplaces for staff members. But, when things get particularly hectic and stressful, those workplace culture efforts can fall through the cracks. Here are four easy ways that administrators can boost teacher morale without breaking the budget.
1. Leave Positive Notes
Try keeping a stack of sticky notes with you at all times. When teachers are away from their desks, leave an encouraging note on their computer screen. It may make teachers feel self-conscious to receive one in person, or you may simply catch them in a distracted moment. The “drop and leave” method serves as a nice, no-pressure reminder of your appreciation for all their hard work.
You can also check out these free downloadable gratitude cards from Edmentum. These quick and fun cards are full of clever and creative sayings that will make anyone who receives them know that they are appreciated.
2. Foster Teacher Friendships
Teachers tend to be insular—after all, they spend their entire day in the classroom with students. You make efforts to give them opportunities to collaborate during staff development or prep periods, but it can be difficult to extend those efforts off campus. Help your staff build relationships outside the classroom by providing an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other more personally.
Hold a faculty meeting, and ask everyone to name three hobbies or interests (for example, golf or photography). Your staff members will be able to see who shares their interests, start conversations, and plan outings to bond as people, not just teachers. If it’s a struggle to get everyone together in the same room, try out some of these virtual community-building ideas!
3. Upgrade the Teachers’ Lounge
Often, the teachers’ lounge is where old furniture goes to die and extra classroom equipment finds a (disorderly) home. The result? No one wants to spend any more time there than absolutely needed. Fortunately, there are plenty of quick, cost-effective ways to break this pattern.
First, clear any clutter that doesn’t have to be there. Organize a group of teachers, and give them two options: take what you want or toss what isn’t needed. Teachers will have a chance to bond with their coworkers in the process, and some may score some great finds for their classrooms. Once the space is cleared out, comb your favorite discount or thrift stores for some engaging décor and gently used furniture items. You can also recruit a group of creative teacher-volunteers or PTA members, give them a small budget to work with, and ask them to unleash their inner interior decorators. Chances are that they’ll have the lounge turned around in no time.
4. Ask For Budget Feedback
This is less fun, but it can be a very valuable strategy. Teachers often feel that their opinions aren’t really heard and that critical decisions about the school are made much further up the food chain. Committees are great, but many teachers don’t have the time to participate in another extracurricular activity.
Whenever possible, allow teachers input on budgetary matters, whether by engaging them in hallway conversations, or sending out brief surveys. Maybe it’s not in the form of a board vote or budget approval, but your teachers will appreciate that their feedback is desired. You may find out some unexpected things about what’s truly important to keep your school running smoothly too.
Looking for more tips to make your school a positive environment to work and learn in? Check out this blog post on Shaping Your School Climate Through Personalized Learning.
This post was originally published January 2017 and has been updated.