If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams
I’ve spent a lot of time really thinking deeply about teachers and their morale at least through the duration of my professional career. When I was in the classroom, I didn’t subscribe to the groups of teachers who found fault with every aspect of their career–instead, I subscribed to the mantra “be the change you want to see in others.” And I think I did a fair job of it. Where I see a problem, I search for solutions, and importantly, I act on those solutions. I rarely sit around and complain about something…I solve. I do. I lead.
So, it’s a challenge for me to solve a problem as big as teacher morale. I know, you know, we all know teachers have been beat down of late, and whether it’s the public perception, the assumptions about public perception, what a single politician says or does, or the seemingly endless mandates and mandates and mandates seeking to change education but instead continuing to burden an already overwhelmed workforce, teachers have a LOT of stress to deal with.
That’s a problem I can’t solve. I can examine it from a million different angles, but I cannot make their jobs any less overwhelming–for every problem I can help solve, 10 more issues arise in the process. I can streamline, simplify, provide resources, answer questions, be a point of contact, and make some of the stresses easier to manage, but I cannot single-handedly improve the morale of all these professionals.
A while ago, I wrote a post about teachers focusing on controllable factors of teaching, and I’m recalling that post as I think about the controllable factors of improving morale. I cannot improve the morale of the entire workforce, but I am entirely in control of my role in each and every interaction I have with teachers. I control my mindset going into the interaction, I control my attitude during the interaction, and I control my mindset as I leave the interaction–all of which has a direct impact on how the teacher perceives the interaction. I can leave a positive impact or a negative one, but whatever I do, I do leave an impact.
My goal as a leader, then, is to make sure my impact is positive. I want teachers to feel good, supported, encouraged, engaged, excited, motivated, and hopeful about the job they do; therefore, I need to leave positive impacts that cultivate this. I need to enter interactions with positivity; I need to conduct myself in ways that foster excitement for education and the job we are all working to do; I need to not load myself down with negative attitudes and predispositions that temper my conversations and the ways I treat others. I need to recognize that every moment is a moment to either inspire greatness or set a course for defeat.
I cannot change the morale of the profession, but I can impact the morale of each individual professional I meet.