To say that the last year and a half have been hard for everyone in education, would be a huge understatement. As the doors open on a new school year, there’s hope that things will go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. At the same time, there’s trepidation, that things will never be truly normal again. The demands of teaching remotely, in-person, hybrid models and all the work and planning that goes into all this is overwhelming for teachers and administrators. Teaching is a stressful job under the best of circumstances, add a worldwide pandemic, and stress levels are significantly increased. Educators are only human and many have flexed to the point of no return. Teacher morale has taken a beating and they are leaving at numbers higher than ever, citing stress and pay as primary reasons for walking away from the classroom.
While we may all have our idea of what morale is, let us examine a couple of definitions from Merriam Webster. The first one states “the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand, a sense of common purpose with respect to a group.” And the second, “the level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future. Who doesn’t want all these things? Morale is so important for educators as they are the ones who have such a great impact on our greatest resource, our children.
If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’re familiar with this phrase “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” What does this have to do with morale? Everything! Think of morale as the oxygen mask. Teachers who feel valued, respected, and have the resources they need are more effective and student outcomes are positively impacted. Now think about what happens if an educator doesn’t put their oxygen mask on first? Teachers become overworked, unmotivated, and unhappy, creating a negative impact on student morale and outcomes.
While morale isn’t as important to our physical well-being as oxygen, it is another important cornerstone of building a campus environment where everyone feels empowered, engaged, and excited to teach and learn. There is one big distinction between the oxygen mask dropping and morale that is important to note. Unlike the mask dropping after pressure drops, morale-building is something that should be ongoing. This seems like a daunting thought with all the other “really important” things that have to happen every day, but it’s so important that teachers, staff, and students are happy and thriving.
Stay tuned! Next week, we’ll dive deeper into ways to improve morale.
Sabrina Valverde is an educator, entrepreneur, educational trainer/consultant, and published author. She is a fiercely passionate advocate for children and has worked in many settings to foster an environment where all children can succeed. Sabrina holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Leadership and believes that equipping teachers with the best curriculum, resources, and professional development is the cornerstone to student achievement.