The culture of a school rests on the shoulders of the administration. This includes building strong relationships, establishing expectations, and increasing morale. Relationships are built through modeling positive behaviors, checking on teachers – not just entering their rooms to observe, and building trust through communication and transparency. Everyone should know that the goal of a successful school is to have high expectations. This is for both teachers and students. Expectations need to be communicated frequently and celebrated often too. The main focus for now is on how to establish and improve staff morale. Morale is how someone feels about their job. Do they like coming to work? Do they feel valued by their administrator? Is there a positive attitude toward tasks? All of these can be affected by the principal.
It may sound too simplistic, but a simple smile and sincere “How are you doing today?” goes a long way in boosting morale. Teachers and staff need to know they are valued and appreciated. One time I took my son to the doctor and was talking to the nurse about how much we liked this cardiologist. She said, “Never a day goes by that he doesn’t tell me how much he appreciates the job I do, or something positive about my work.” That has really stuck with me as an administrator. Now I know I can’t get around to all of the staff every day, but I do try to use positive words and tones as often as possible. If a teacher or staff member has done something extra to help, I try to take notice and tell them “Thank you.”
Empower Your Staff
Morale is also improved through empowering others. Teachers are professionals. They have spent their money to train and educate themselves. When possible, they should be included in decision making and encouraged to be in control of their class. One way our school empowers teachers is to have one teacher per grade level on a team leader committee, but we alternate these annually. This way one teacher is not the “chosen one.” We meet and make decisions and those teachers are responsible for relaying the information to their team.
Respect Brings About Respect
Respect is another morale booster. It also promotes mutual respect. Personally, I am more likely to respect someone who communicates effectively, has transparency in decisions, and who shows they trust me to do my job. Administrators can demonstrate these qualities by being trustworthy, listening with intent, encouraging people to express their opinions without fear of being assaulted, and by being honest. Sometimes honesty deals with hard conversations, but when explained with sincerity and the goal of improvement, that honesty can establish respect.
Being the number one cheerleader and advocate for the school is the goal of a positive administrator. Ensuring each staff member feels valued and communicating with respect and interest in what they have to offer can help build the culture and morale. Most importantly, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want your administrator to treat you.