How to Increase Motivation and Collaboration Among Staff During COVID-19

Kelly Nelson-Danley
Kelly Nelson-Danley
Assistant elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
Group of young teachers sitting at a table working together in the library.

Increasing motivation and collaboration among staff can be a difficult task in a normal school year, much less one affected by a world-wide pandemic! Nevertheless, staff morale is important and helps keep staff engaged, motivated, and willing to collaborate.

Difficulties School Staff are Facing

Motivating staff and encouraging collaboration is always somewhat difficult. COVID-19 hasn’t made it any easier. As teachers are either working remotely from home, teaching virtually in the solidarity of their classrooms, or teaching a hybrid of in-person and virtual students, they are facing numerous issues. These include, but are certainly not limited to: a widening of the achievement gap, increased feelings of loneliness, frustration and exhaustion, navigating ways to support students that do not get support at home, catering to individual needs of students (scheduling and academic), trouble-shooting technology issues,  keeping up with excessive student absences, and possibly being exposed to COVID-19.

In addition to orchestrating the variety of tasks given to them, many teachers have their own children. This means that in their free time, which would normally be devoted to family, teachers are having to devote extra time to helping their own children complete school work. Some school districts have asked teachers to host office hours in the evenings to further assist families, adding another layer to teacher responsibilities.

Considering the current responsibilities of educators, it is no wonder that school staff face difficulties with motivation and collaboration. Practicing social distancing makes common planning difficult. Teachers are learning new ways to collaborate. Many teachers lean on each other for motivation and on their students. Being limited to virtual interaction is hard. It’s key that educators find ways to increase motivation and collaboration.

Strategies to Increase Motivation and Collaboration Among Staff

There are many ways to increase motivation and collaboration among staff. Many strategies are available on the web to educational leaders on how to keep teachers motivated. Here are 10 go-tos that are easy to implement and have been found to be successful.

  1. Find Ways to Celebrate Success: Find small ways to celebrate success by having a “Staff Member of the Month” or sharing “Thankful Notes” with staff members.
  2. Get Feedback and Offer Mini-Professional Development Sessions: Organize and offer mini-PD sessions with resources and information on how to use online tools and platforms. Find out what mini-PD teachers need by asking them. Send out an email or a Google Survey to collect this feedback.
  3. Set Small Daily Goals: These are not normal times. It’s OK to set small daily goals that can help you make your day as predictive as it can be while being realistic about what you can accomplish. Modeling this to your staff is a great way to help motivate them to accomplish their daily goals and not too become overwhelmed.
  4. Make Time to Practice Self Care: Self care is important! Scheduling time in your calendar to relax is one way to make sure you practice self care. Watch your favorite show. Cook your favorite meal. Relax!
  5. Make Mental Health a Priority: When your mind is filled with anxiety and stress, it can be hard to stay motivated. Taking care of yourself will help you manage your mental health. You can do this by taking time to eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, take time away from technology, and reach out to others for support.
  6. Treat Your Staff: Set up a COVID-friendly treat area. For example, surprise your staff by setting up a treat bar with individually wrapped treats in a common area. You can also include inspirational quotes in the treat area which will hopefully lighten the mood and inspire some smiles.
  7. Be Kind and Professional: You have more to contribute to your school than just teaching. By being kind and professional, students and other staff members are provided with examples of what responsible, professional, and positive behaviour looks like. Staff interactions with one another should be positive and professional, encouraging an environment of both motivation and collaboration. How can you keep this going during the pandemic? Continue to keep things “normal” by dressing professionally, showing up on time (in person or on Zoom meetings), and contributing to the profession by sharing resources and attending common planning. Think about what you want your students and colleagues to see when they observe you. Being a caring and responsible person can go a long way in keeping others motivated.
  8. Be Present: If you are a school leader, come out of your office and make yourself available. Show staff that you care and you are in this with them. If you are a teacher or another staff member in the school, get out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t talk to.
  9. Join A Personal Learning Network: With restraints on in-person collaboration, online PLNs are great resources for collaboration during the pandemic. PLNs help educators build relationships with peers and give them an opportunity to discuss best practices in teaching. Building a network of professional relationships with other educators can help teachers expand their knowledge and push them to learn how different tools can help students be successful.
  10. Remember that with Challenges Comes Opportunities: Although COVID-19 has put the breaks on many facets of our lives and education, opportunities to improve the practice have become evident. Opportunities such as the development of Virtual Schools across the country, an increase in the virtual teaching capacity of our teachers, and a revamping of curriculum have begun to take place. This new and uncharted territory has opened the door to educational opportunities that may have never been explored before.

During this time of uncertainty, everyone is learning how to cope. By taking care of yourself, showing your staff you care for them, and making the best out of your situation, you can make it easier for your staff to navigate this pandemic. Robert John Meehan, famous for encouraging quotes and insights into the world of education, says, “The most valuable resource teachers have is each other.” This rings true, even now when collaboration isn’t as easy as it used to be. Considering this, it’s important to do all we can as leaders in education to keep motivation and collaboration at the forefront of our working environments.

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