March Madness for School People
March Madness means something totally different to school people. This is the final morale dip of the school calendar year before the May-June madness of field days, graduations, and standardized testing pressures. How can principals increase morale and help support discouraged teachers?
Do Something: Research on morale building efforts indicates that the act of trying to increase employee morale actually does. It’s kind of like getting flowers for no reason, “it is the thought that counts.” Whether it’s a principal delivered donut, a shout out in faculty meeting recognizing the efforts of several people or a good old fashioned surprise ice cream party after the busses are in the distance, doing nice things for your staff makes them feel appreciated and it builds morale!
Be There: Principals should always “be present” with teachers but we are such busy people, we often rely on multi-tasking as a way to just get things done. This is the time of year when teachers are thinking about their plans for next year. Should they change schools? Switch grade levels? Offer to coach cheerleading? They often seek out their principals to feel them out on what they are thinking. We never want to close the door on those discussions. We need to use those opportunities to remind teachers why we hope they will stay at our schools, why we need them in 3rd grade more than 4th or to share our vision for what the next step is for that teacher. Be present. Listening to what they are thinking about and being responsive to their requests or concerns goes a long way.
Address Rumors: In many districts principals switch schools over the summer and knowing who your boss will be is incredibly important. There are some principals who are “rumored” to be leaving every year. Don’t hide from the rumors. If you are staying, state your commitment and love of your school to your faculty. If you are going (or applying to go), share that too in a general way so that you are transparent.
Remind School Staff of the Difference They Make: We too often assume that teachers can hoard one compliment like a camel maintains water. This is the time of year when you have to remind teachers what students and parents tell you about them and how important they are. It is easy for teachers to think they aren’t making a difference when our work this time of year is so challenging, but we know that teachers are the most important factor in student achievement.
Be a Great Model: You are the principal. Model reflection. Model taking your job seriously, but not yourself. Model that everyday you give yourself a fresh star and forgive yourself for not being perfect yesterday. Model that this education is more about kids than it is about tests.
Finally, there is nothing that perks up an educator more than a reminder about the difference they make. There are many links to uplifting videos and stories that can be fun to start off an email or a faculty meeting. Remind teachers that you sometimes get caught in the “administrivia” yourself and you have to remember that being in the business of building children is tough work, but there is no better job.