I have sat on our school improvement team (SIT) longer than anyone else at my school because as the full-time technology facilitator, I am a sitting SIT member. As a result, I have served on SIT for 11 years now. At this stage in my career, I am getting to the point where I have "seen it all before": "teacher morale, should homework not turned in be marked as zeroes?; Should students be allowed to wear flip flops?; a variety of discipline issues, gum chewing, students using cell phones", etc, etc... After so many years, these "critical issues" start to blurr into one murky memory. I often say to myself: "Come on people, it's just Middle School!"
Anyway, Teacher morale has come up on several occassions in the past, so I know for certain that this is not a new issue. Sure, there are differences in administation & faculty, but overall the same types of concerns rear their ugly head from time to time. What's in the background of this current malaise? It is afterall the middle of winter, and it has been a long one for us in the South East; we may have post holiday/winter blahs. In addition, we are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnell of a severe recession. So, there is definitely context for this current feeling of unease.
And by the way, Dictionary.com defines morale as "the state of the spirits of a person or group as exhibited by confidence, cheerfulness, discipline, and willingness to perform assigned tasks."
As a professional and a teacher, I love the fact that our job is one of the few where we still have a degree of autonomy. I personally don't feel like I need anyone to tell me what to do. I need guidance now and again, but I pretty much know what I am supposed to do, and I do it. I also don't feel like I need recognition. It's just not in my nature. So for me, my spirits are kept high by the good feelings I get from doing my job well, and the occassional positive feedback I receive from helping students/teachers. If you want recognition and feedback, why not start a blog? A blog will immediately make you feel recognized and you will know that someone out there is listening!
So why the low morale mantra here? Certainly there are "issues" at our school, but are they any worse than other schools? I don't think so. Part of the problem maybe the fact that teachers by their nature seem to enjoy complaining, and when several do this (mostly about small issues) simaltaneously, it becomes a trend and spreads like a virus. These problems are not significant ones if all of us simply focused on the following: look on the bright side, offer solutions instead of more problems, and stop whining...
Having said all that, I'm sure there are things we can do to improve the morale at our school. Listening to one another and communicating more effectively might be a good start. Recongnizing our accomplishements as Mr. Martin does in his blog each week is also helpful. And finally, I suggest sucking it up and being grateful for the wondeful school we have!
I recently read a blog about school leadership and encouraging morale at schools--It reviews three simple things that school leaders should keep in mind. And again, don't forget--we are the leaders! Don't wait for others to lead you. Be a leader yourself. If our principal has allowed you to be a leader, he has given you a gift and not told you to be a sheep!
I think we all must step up to the leadership plate and take responsibility for perceived problems at our school. Another resource comes to mind. it is a book called Learning By Heart, by Roland Barth, and it is about taking on shared leadership roles in a school. It would definitely be worth a read especially for those who don't naturally view themselves as potential leaders in the school.. Here is a review of it.
One last thing...We all should put "the situation" at our school in perspective. Everything is relative. People in the corporate world are really hurting right now. I have a friend who works for a large corporation in Charlotte and his main job lately has been to make lists of people to lay-off. He just had to put a friend/neighbor on one of those lists because that employee had received a B- on a recent evaluation. The guy had never received a poor rating before in his career, and yet he is being laid off... Imagine the morale in an organization like that...? Be thankful, be positive, and push out the negativity!