Boosting Teacher Morale and Sense of Professional Identity

January 28, 2021

Balancing remote, hybrid, or in-person teaching and personal lives has been a collective challenge for educators nationwide. Nearly three-quarters of teachers say their morale is lower than it was before the national health pandemic. Burnout is real, and yet it’s incredibly difficult to lighten teachers’ loads without having an impact on students. With several months of school left and an end to the pandemic that still feels far off, it is critical that school and district leaders take proactive steps to care for the well-being of our teachers.

Key Factors to Keep In Mind When Boosting Teacher Morale

Fortunately, there are proven opportunities to boost teacher morale that only take some attention and planning:

  1. Leverage the Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. To tap into teachers’ intrinsic motivation, teachers should be trusted and encouraged to take ownership over their work and skill development. This autonomy will fuel creativity. Only teachers themselves can seek mastery for their own sake. Motivate teachers to take advantage of the resources and tools afforded to them. These changes to teaching may be overwhelming, but being reminded of teachers’ purpose can help serve as inspiration and motivation. People who believe they are working toward something larger than themselves are often the most engaged and hard-working professionals.
  2. Clear their plates to focus.The sheer number of things that teachers are asked to do right now can be overwhelming. As school and district leaders, ask your teachers to focus only on what is absolutely necessary, and find ways to eliminate everything else.
  3. Build your personal connections to your teachers. Teachers need to feel like someone is looking out for them in the same ways that they are looking out for their students. Even if you can’t make the job easier, you can be supportive by checking in regularly and building your relationship with your team. School leaders can apply the principles for building the teacher/student relationship from the Framework for Teaching to their relationship with their teachers. Taking time to learn about teachers’ unique identities and motivations will go a long way in helping them feel understood and heard.
  4. Understand the Power of Recognition. A little celebration can go a long way. By creating rituals to recognize excellence and celebrate victories big and small, teachers will see that their work is valued and increase their sense of connection to their colleagues. Weekly shout outs, social media posts, and giving space for teachers to share their wins are high-value opportunities to boost teachers’ morale.

Our teachers are carrying a lot right now and we need them to maintain energy for the second half of a school year that will likely be as uncertain as the first. Let’s be proactive about addressing their needs so that they can continue showing up for our students. By leading with grace and compassion, our teachers will feel valued and empowered to continue their important work.