Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teacher Morale...Can it be Fixed?

Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
I'm sure I got the attention of several teachers with this title.  You can read articles, hear news stories, and listen to friends talk about what teaching has become.  I'm not writing this to engage in an argument or offend anyone.  These are my thoughts on the personal nature of morale.

Our education system is all about assessment and accountability.  Assessment and accountability on Steroids.

I don't think any teacher can contradict the need for assessment and accountability.  It's the constant pressure and feeling that the need for these things is life and death.  In the midst of all of this, we are required to do more and more with less and less and our morale is low...really low.  What can we do?

"Make sure your own mask is on, before helping others."

Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
What?  How could I do that?  I was having a discussion about being tired with a colleague.  She told me to "take care of myself and stay healthy or someone else will have to take care of me when I'm sick."  That's the theory behind the air mask.  If you are on an airplane, the flight attendant will tell you to put on your air mask before you help someone else. If you take the time to put on someone's else air mask, you won't be healthy enough to put your own on.  You can't sacrifice your well-being for your students or tests or other stuff.  Make sure to take care of yourself...so you can give it your all. Missing a day for "mental health" is better than missing weeks for an illness.

Where is your happy place?

Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
Mine is the beach.  Even when I can't get to the actual beach...I have pictures of the beach around me. If we can take a minute or two to think about what brings us peace, it can lower our blood pressure and help us react positively to things. Some days are going to be hard. Some announcements are going to be less than ideal. Some requirements will be counter-intuitive to you, but you can't do anything about it. Find your peace. You can be a better you.

Be the squeaky wheel to help make changes.

Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
I am all about being a squeaky wheel...nicely.  Teaching is hard and MOST OF THE TIME no one understands how hard.  Be the squeaky wheel and let your frustrations be known, but add some honey.  Make sure you have a solution or an estimate of a solution. Sometimes, the complaining is listened to longer if a solution or a compromise is suggested.*  The asterisks at the end of the sentence is to say that some things cannot be compromised.  Some things are required, but finding the easiest way to complete the requirement is better than just complaining. When you allow your inner voice to be about anger, it will rob you of your peace.

Find Your Inspiration...Make it Personal.

Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
That's an easy one for me.  I have talked about these two ladies in the pictures before.  The black and white picture is Mrs. Buckley, my high school chorus teacher.  She LOVED being a teacher.  She was the best combination of teacher/counselor/friend.  We knew she loved us and we loved her.  I think of her when I think of teaching...would she have left us?  Nope. She would have fought for an educational system that benefited us. The picture on the right is my mom.  She was an amazing teacher.  She clearly changed the lives of the students and parents in her path.  At least once a month, she is approached by someone in Wal-Mart saying, "Remember me?  You had my son in your class." Finally, I had a student who touched my life in ways I didn't expect.  That has stayed with me and inspired me to keep reaching out to children.  Find your inspiration...something that says, "I can't quit. I can't forget about THEM because ultimately it's about THEM."

Create a "happy file."


Teacher morale is on the decline, but can we allow it to be blamed on someone else? Find your inspiration for staying in this career, because it matters.
My supervising teacher during my student teaching told me to keep a HAPPY FILE.  She told me to keep the notes and letters and pictures from parents and of students that made me happy...because there would be days you'd need it.  Boy, was she right.  Also, think about someone else who might need it...and jot a note to someone for their HAPPY FILE. Here's a special one from a kindergarten parent. "Hi Mrs. Collier and Mrs. Lowe, I hope you had a great Christmas break. We had a wonderful Christmas surprise! He read several books to us! Thank you so much for giving him such a great gift. Happy New Year." That is something that stays in my happy file.  Make one today.

Make it better...

Try to figure out a way to make it better.  I've ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher.  How can I walk away?  My oldest son wants to be a teacher and I've been asked if I have tried to steer him away from teaching.  My answer is always, "No."  I'm proud to be a teacher and proud that he wants to be a teacher.  Teaching isn't just my job, it's my calling, my passion, and my inspiration...and I'll fight for it. I believe teacher morale is internal, we have to guard our morale with our passion!

BUT, if even after all this you don't like teaching, leave. I'm sorry if that's hard to hear. Would you want to visit a doctor who didn't like his job? Would you like have a lawyer fighting for you, who didn't like his job? Would you want your child or grandchild to have you for a teacher?

If yes, fight for your passion. 

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