EdWeek Research had conducted a survey in November 2020 that demonstrated the downfall of teacher morale during the pandemic. Among 817 teachers three-quarters reportedly said that their morale is lower than before the pandemic. While 85% claimed that the overall teacher’s morale at their school is low now, 65% had claimed in the same manner in March 2020.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an arduous time for teachers across the US. With an unprecedented shutdown, educators have had to face a rapid transition in the school system. The pandemic will be exacerbating the educational dilemma while hampering the teacher morale. 42% of teachers have claimed that the pandemic has decreased their motivation to work.
Statements from the Officials
Dr. Andra Penny, the Principal at Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Texas, elaborated how distance learning modules take a toll on teacher morale. At her school, about 40% of students have opted for remote learning. So teachers are burdened with in-person class instruction and simultaneous live streaming. She stated that when teachers fall sick, administrators have to request other subject teachers to take over double tasks. Thus teachers face a tough ordeal during school hours.
McCarthy describes how the stressful work schedule can result in teachers exhibiting symptoms of burnout. This reduces their effectiveness in the classroom and ultimately induces them to resign. They may take longer leaves and develop a dehumanized perception towards students. “Teachers [who are burnt out] feel a reduced sense of accomplishment in their job, they feel emotionally exhausted,” he said.
Factors that Influence Teacher’s Morale
Teacher morale is often impacted due to factors such as,
- Satisfaction Level: A school has to cater to provide everything that a teacher may need. The job responsibilities likewise must be interesting and engaging for teachers. To avoid spiraling into dissatisfaction and frustration, frequent checks of teacher morale should be conducted.
- Stress: If a teacher is under physical or emotional fatigue, the classroom ambiance is tainted with a bad influence. School administrators must be wary of such changes.
- Organization Morale: As students are driven by the behavior of teachers, individual teachers are affected by the overall organization morale. Low leadership morale on the part of administrators will result in low teacher morale.
- Pay: According to Smith and Reid (2010), a study revealed that teachers in the Lodi Unified School District were not happy with their pay. They felt undervalued during salary negotiations and compensation bargains.
- Respect: Teachers need the right bit of respect and recognition for their work like everybody else. Denial of this is inevitably an indicator of low teacher morale.
- Participation: According to Miller (1980), allowing teachers to participate in the decision-making process of a school works wonders in boosting a teacher morale. Likewise, adequate praises and instructional leadership opportunities also help.
Teaching was already termed as a ‘high-stress job’. Due to the rapid educational changes, uncertainty, and fear of contracting the virus have all brought down teacher morale considerably. The workload and stress contributed to deteriorating the mental health of a great number of teachers.
Tips to reduce stress
In order to relieve this stress and lift teacher’s morale, the below-listed tips can be proved beneficial – especially amidst the pandemic.
- Self-Pace: A school administration can ease the teacher’s tensions and let them work at their own pace. The situation is very precarious, hence the tendency to experience low teacher morale.
- Mental Help: Providing mental support hotline and frequent counseling sessions are essential steps to be taken. The challenging pressure of living through a pandemic may be better addressed by a professional.
- Social Activity: Since most teachers are separated from their colleagues at this time, a school may set apart a virtual social space for yoga or relaxation.
- Work Aid: When principals, administrators, and staff are not busy with their own jobs, they can lend a helping hand to teachers. They can be in charge of recess or lunch duty while teachers continue lessons uninterrupted.
- Mindfulness Breaks: In between lessons school psychologists can uplift teacher morale as well as class ambiance through socio-emotional lessons. They can use breathing exercises or coping strategies for fear and anger.
- Administrative Support: Receiving encouragement and support from the school authorities boosts teacher morale significantly. An EdWeek survey showed how 39% of teachers admitted having been uplifted by their superiors’ support.
- Secondary Trauma: Setting up a professional development session helps teachers recognize signs of secondary trauma. This results from being exposed to traumatized students. The session helps to emphasize self-care.
- Staying Connected: Fellow teachers must support each other in their work. Some school district leaders in the USA have set up “virtual restorative circles” where teachers share and connect.
- Virtual Training: Coaching teachers on how to wade through the changed school procedures and tackle technological issues is important. This provides staff the confidence to go through this time of uncertainty.
- Appreciation: Crediting educators for their hard work goes a long way in boosting teacher morale. Giving meaningful presents to teachers could also be a great way of conveying appreciation as well. Some community members share heartwarming stories about the efforts of teachers on social media.
Boosting teacher morale in this time of crisis is of supreme importance to sustain the education system. When teachers are inspired and motivated inside the classroom, future stars will shine and chase their dreams.