When you walk into a school, any school, you get a feel for it very quickly.
There’s an ambience, an atmosphere and a sense of ‘something’ about it. A school that exudes a positive vibe feels like the sort of place you want to work in and it comes down to morale.
Ensuring that morale remains high among teachers is a central part of a Head Teacher’s role. It is also a central part of a teacher’s role too. Everyone has a part to play but the way a school is led makes all the difference to the feel of the place. High morale feels good – people are happy, energised, enthusiastic and eager.
It is this morale that keeps the school going and performing well. Quite simply, the way people feel about their work affects their performance. Get morale wrong and you get miserable staff and this impacts on students. Mess it up good and proper and you could have a mutiny on your hands.
It is often said that morale in teaching has never been lower. In fact, it is said every year as one crisis and calamity unfolds and dominoes into another. It seems as if teachers in the trenches are never happy with their lot.
Yet, we know this isn’t true of every school that face the same external pressures and challenges. There are some schools where teachers are very happy to work and wouldn’t want to leave. These places have that not so secret ingredient – high morale.
School leaders that cultivate morale have a clear sense of purpose. They have a mission and their staff buy into this so much that they ‘do it for the school’ and displays of discretionary effort are common and everywhere to be seen.
School leaders that communicate a clear vision and mission get the staff behind them because they understand what is expected of them. Everyone has a role to play and everyone is clear what they need to do. When teachers know what the organisation is trying to achieve, they do their bit.
These school leaders are visible, positive and make sure that spirits are kept high. Emotional intelligence combined with bags of communication supports confidence and powers individual, team and organisational resilience.
A school with high morale is blatantly obvious because there is a highly noticeable shared respect where staff care for each other. Feedback is strong and constructive, appraisals are high quality and empowering and teamwork is the backbone keeping everything up. A clear sense that senior managers care about the well being of everyone contributes to morale.
Effective school leaders recognise that understanding and promoting high morale is a key element of ‘operational capability’. Decisions are made by considering the question: “How will this affect the morale of the school?”
Salespeople with high morale sell more, teachers with high morale teach better and pupils benefit by achieving more.
Human resources determine the development of school. Effective, harmonious interpersonal relationships boost morale and make teachers feel that coming into work is highly worthwhile. Morale improves teacher certainty and their own efficacy.
A school with high spirits is a school with a good reputation.