As a principal, among your many responsibilities lies the management of your teaching staff. You must do your best to ensure that your teachers have adequate resources and guidance to help the students get the best education you can offer.
But we sometimes forget that people aren’t robots or units of predictable output. We may overlook that people can slip into periods of time where they just go through the motions and only give the bare necessity of effort and presence of mind. And of course, teachers are just as susceptible to this behavior as anyone.
Therefore as the manager of your teaching staff, you must employ active strategies and tactics to motivate and inspire your teachers so that they can perform at their best.
Below we listed 9 field-tested ideas grouped into 3 categories that have helped other principals motivate their teaching staff without any budgetary strains.
Acknowledge & Reward
Regular recognition & feedback
Everyone needs reassurance that they are doing a good job. Sometimes, a timely piece of feedback is enough to stimulate morale for weeks at a time.
Make sure to recognize your faculty’s efforts regularly, both privately and in public. This can be done via weekly memos, out of the blue private emails, during staff meetings or just when you pass by one of your teachers in the parking lot or the teachers’ lounge.
Just ensure that you extend some form of appreciation to each member of your staff regularly.
Expected channels and forms of recognition should be the norm. However, if you really want to have a lasting impact, surprise them.
The beauty of this tactic is that it can be quite easy to pull off. Something as simple as a handwritten note left on a teacher’s desk can go a long way. You can also try gifting a book or even just a gift card with a simple “thank you” message inside.
Other actions you can try are leaving sticky notes with short positive comments or even a feel-good card with a praising message inside that you can hand them at seemingly random times.
Reward & gift budget
It’s important that you make sure every member of your faculty feels appreciated. However, it’s just as important that you reward those who put in outstanding efforts.
Make sure to set aside a part of the budget for rewarding those teachers who take on additional projects or provide a consistently stellar example. If you know your staff well enough, a highly-personalized gift can go a long way.
Create the Right Atmosphere
Set an example
As people, we tend to take on the attitudes and vigor of those around us. And usually, this process is a top down one. That is, we emulate the behaviors and attitudes of those in leadership positions.
Therefore, it is your responsibility as the principal, to set a good, visible example. Make sure you set aside personal problems and try and show up every day in an energetic, positive and caring way.
Forego any management specific perks, such as privileged parking, and keep an open-door policy for your faculty. It also helps if you arrive early and leave only when your staff leaves.
Another way to demonstrate your commitment to your establishment is to participate from time to time in all its operations. Whether that is helping clean the cafeteria tables or pick up the trash.
Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to motivate and inspire your staff.
Create opportunities for bonding
While teachers aren’t required to be friends with their colleagues, an atmosphere of congeniality definitely helps boost morale. And a lot of times, the short breaks between classes aren’t enough to foster such an environment.
You might not be able to ensure that everyone becomes the best of friends but you can definitely increase the likelihood that your faculty gets along better with each other.
In order to create these opportunities, you must increase the time spent socializing through various events.
You can arrange monthly events for the whole staff. Regularly include events such as dinners or social outings (movie nights, sporting events, concerts, plays,etc.). It’s also helpful to create social clubs with regular events that anyone on the staff can join (book clubs, athletic/fitness teams, etc.). If your budget allows it, end of semester banquets or even a faculty retreat can go a long way to nurturing staff relations and morale.
Small things that create joy
The little things actually matter a lot when it comes to creating an atmosphere that encourages your teachers to do their best work.
Delight your staff by having free unlimited good quality coffee always available in the teachers’ lounge. Once a week you can even have the cafeteria staff prepare a continental breakfast for your faculty (just make sure to reward your cafeteria staff a couple of times per year). Something as simple as personal birthday wishes can also be used to create a great working atmosphere.
You can get creative with this and just continuously invest in small improvements as you think of them. For example, adding a quality coffee machine, plants or art pieces in the teachers’ lounge.
It’s important that your teaching staff feels heard and that you routinely make changes and improvements based on their input.
Make sure that you put in place a feedback system and a process to routinely gather feedback from teachers and find solutions to their recurring problems. This can be done by having a suggestion box or an anonymous survey.
Then you can brainstorm and present solutions and improvements during your faculty & committee meetings and ask for a vote to prioritize and determine the best ones to be implemented.
Encourage and support professional development
Most people stay motivated and energized as long as they feel a sense of progress in their abilities. You can foster that feeling by supporting any professional development ambitions. Investing in your faculty isn’t just a sign of commitment and trust, but also an investment into the quality of your school’s education.
Make it a priority to encourage your teachers to seek out courses and workshops that enrich their professional development. Try to approve all reasonable requests.
Additionally, you can also have each teacher attend another’s classroom once a semester. This creates an opportunity for teachers to learn from each other. Make sure this is arranged in advance in order to be able to cover for each teacher.
Facilitate their work
A teacher’s main responsibility is to the quality of education they can consistently provide to each one of their students. Your main responsibility towards your faculty is to help them spend most of their time engaged in teaching and directly improving your students’ experience.
Therefore limiting any unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy should be part of your process. Try and reduce the number of staff meetings to a minimum, encourage requests for instructional supplies, and streamline procedures. This can help improve your teaching staff’s work and work satisfaction.
We just wanted to give you some inspiration from other principals on how you can improve your faculty’s morale and motivation. Use this article to audit your own tactics and see if you can add in a few more that you haven’t tried before or haven’t used for some time.
Make sure to bookmark this article and use it as a reminder resource.