What contributes to staff morale?

Avatar for sharlene1
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
What contributes to staff morale?
5
Sun, 03-12-2006 - 3:50pm

Staff morale is at an all time low in our building due to many circumstances (mainly a difficult principal.) I brought it up to our principal (I'm the union rep and faculty council rep) and she suggested I do a session on staff morale. To get us started I put up 3 graphs for staff to complete during their break. The first each staff member was to indicate how he/she thought the morale was in our building, the second was to indicate how each staff member felt he/she was supported by other staff, and the third was to indicate how each staff member felt he/she was supported by administration. The graphs showed everyone felt morale was low, everyone felt supported by other staff, and most people felt unsupported by admin. Comments to be read at the meeting were submitted to me annonymously. I shared the graphs at the meeting, we discussed the concerns, some additional concerns were added. One group decided to have a morning prayer group, more people decided to have more staff outings outside of school, and everyone wants more consistent discipline in the school and support from administration. When I met with the principal she was disappointed WE didn't come up with more suggestions on how to improve staff morale. She refuses to hear that she contributes to the problem by yelling at staff in front of students, being completely negative on evaluations, pitting staff members against each other, showing favoritism, and squashing any plans we make and don't get approved by her. (I put up a sign up by our mail boxes for a Valentine's Day staff potluck and she took it down because it wasn't approved by her!)

So anyone have any ideas on what WE can do because she will not change. It's her third and final year in her contract and we are hoping the school board will not renew her. I've already been to the board meeting to speak about her and several parents and staff members have been to the superintendent. She has had many grievances filed against her.

Sharlene

Avatar for guili12737
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Registered: 08-23-1997
Sun, 03-12-2006 - 6:52pm
I agree with you that the administration plays a BIG part in staff morale, but since she is unwilling to change that leaves it up to you. Would she approve of staff breakfasts once a month? In my school departments all chip in and take turns providing breakfast to the staff once a month or so. I work in a high school but when I worked in a middle school, teams took turns doing this. I think food always makes people happier. You can probably try any number of things, but I agree that it probably won't improve much with a crummy boss at the helm.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Sun, 03-12-2006 - 7:02pm

Do I know your principal? I think I must have met her in a past job.


It's late in the year to initiate any real change. I'd suggest that you continue with the staff to staff activities that different groups and individuals feel are important. Staff support is vital if administrative support is missing. Knowing everyone is in the same boat makes it more tolerable. Outings and venting to friends can make a difference for the short term.


If there is a change, everyone gets a fresh start and new hope.

Sherry

 

Avatar for sharlene1
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sun, 03-12-2006 - 7:32pm

Sherry,

Which midwest state are you in? I'm in a northern suburb of Chicago. This admin has a reputation in her last district too. One of our teachers worked summer school in her previous district and an admin there shared stories about her. She is a strange person--she has tried (unsuccessfully) to get rid of several 4th year teachers who were good teachers and were supported by parents. She has snapped at staff members and parents. She was accused of grabbing a child (one who was believable) but her higher ups supported her.

We are eating together regularly :) but I was hoping for other innovative ideas. Between our staff food gatherings and eating chocolate in response to the constant stress we are all going to gain weight, LOL. Perhaps we need a workout group! After the last staff session I've spoke with our district nurse and asked for resources on stress and staff wellness. I've told her as well as the union president that there needs to be an outside resource for us to look at the problem. She thought we'd all come up with a plan and completely refused that it could be her fault. She went so far as to say admin has to make tough decisions and teachers just don't understand it because we are not admin. The discipline is a real conflict area for us--the kids are running the school. It's nothing for a kid to get in trouble for fighting and come back with a reward for promising not to do it again. We are a 1st-6th school and even the first graders are saying "I won't get in trouble for that." when we feel it's a serious offense and send them to the office. If a student steals, it's the teacher's fault for leaving things out or not supervising closely. If a parent comes in with a concern she automatically documents it that there is a parent complaint against us. (For example, I had a little first grader who did not want to come to school. I got called into the office and she proceeded to tell me it was my fault and the child must be afraid of me. The girl is always happy at school so I asked the dad what their morning routine was like. He said she didn't like getting up and leaving for school. I questioned him about her bed time and he said she goes to be between 9:30 and 10:00. We talked about how first graders need more sleep and 7:30-8:00 was more reasonable. I shared that my son is the same way when he goes to bed late. i asked if she perks up after breakfast and he said she doesn't eat breakfast. This child also rarely does her homework and was frequently tardy. As a result she was missing her Title 1 reading or getting there late after all the other kids were settled. Within a week he adjusted her bedtime and came to see me and thank me because she was doing so much better and was much more cooperative at home. This is written in my eval as a parent complaint!)

Ughh, I could go on forever with stories. We are working on discipline with our discipline committee, but she will not agree to any strong consequences for serious offenses or repeat offenders. Hopefully the recognition for the improvement will motivate her--she took all the credit when we were nominated for a Blue Ribbon Award last year. She was quoted in the paper saying our school had no goals when she arrived and she turned everything around. No credit at all for the teachers who made it all possible. (And we weren't falling apart when she arrived! We have a strong staff who does what's best for the kids, despite our leadership.)

Gotta go tuck my own kids into bed. I'll keep you updated!

Sharlene

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Sun, 03-12-2006 - 9:30pm

I'm in southern Indiana. I hate to bring bad news, but my admin like that lasted for 15 years before the superintendent

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Mon, 03-13-2006 - 9:54pm

What a piece of work.

I think that morning prayer group is a great idea. And pray hard that she leaves, gets moved, retires, gets a clue, or whatever.

I am in a middle school that could be a nightmare to teach in - probably about 80% free/reduced lunch. We got 100+ students at the beginning of the year from an "academically unacceptable school" when we were barely keeping our heads above water. No extra desks or supplies or teachers. Just the students. Discipline isn't great. The administrators don't play, but the kids have no self-discipline. Then Katrina and Rita came, and we got more kids - and some teachers this time - some long term kids, but many in and out in a week or a month or 2 months. Many that had lost everything (teachers and students).

Then there was the stupid Comprehensive Curriculum mandated by the state.

But our administrators - especially our principal - have our backs. When we need their help, they are there. They back us in parent meetings. They don't stress us out over meaningless garbage. We don't have endless faculty meetings. After one meeting with a psycho parent, I emailed my principal to tell her thanks for her support and she emailed back with a simple "you guys are worth it".

Don't get me wrong - if they see something that they don't like, or if a parent calls with a concern, we will hear about it - but in a professional manner. And sometimes she does do things that aren't popular, but thinks are in the best interest of the students. You can't please all the people all the time... but it is always in the context of having a better school.

After testing is over next week, we are having a "throwdown". They are renting a hall for the afternoon/evening, hiring a DJ, and having a fish fry. I'm not usually a big "party person", but I'll be there for this. A chance to relax and enjoy.

It is her 5th year, and this year has been so rough that I'm afraid she won't be back next year. And the first year she did come in and act like we were all a bunch of slackers - we weren't. But your principal has been there for 3 years - she should have learned what she is going to learn. She should know that her staff is just as educated as she is, just as intelligent (or maybe moreso), and fellow professionals.

I'm sorry you have a toxic boss. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that morale comes from the top. You can have crappy working conditions, but a high morale with a good leader. And you can have a blue ribbon school with crappy morale with a poor leader.

Hang on to that prayer group idea. It might be the most powerful ally you have.

Karen

 


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