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Improving Teacher Morale

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Morale Reflected by Enthusiasm


Student and Teacher Morale

School morale is a two-way street. In one direction runs student morale which is addressed quite often in written articles. In the other direction teacher morale proceeds, not often given as much attention as it should.

Most schools, especially private institutions, do a great job of handling student morale issues. Interesting and fun classes are provided and various extracurricular activities are satisfying the needs and interests of everyone in the student body. It is truly enjoyable for most kids coming to school. If morale was low, not all students would be anxious to attend school. Needless to say, they would transfer to other institutions.

Unfortunately, teacher morale is neglected in several schools. This is undoubtedly due to the patient nature and professionalism of most in the teaching profession. In this article, after defining morale, I suggest steps toward improving teacher morale in response to my previous teaching experience.

What is Morale?

Morale or less-commonly known as esprit de corps is the mental or emotional condition of the individual or group members to maintain enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty toward an organization's work and goals. This is reflected in group members or employees feeling happy, appreciated, valued, and maintaining belief and self-discipline while performing duties assigned by superiors. Morale is important not only for teachers, but also for other employees in government, business, sports, and military organizations.

Improving Teacher Morale - School Facilities

The first type of issue to address in improving teacher morale is school facilities. This includes such things as:

1. Classrooms

The classroom is the primary teaching and learning arena in schools. Every teacher expects a blackboard or a whiteboard with markers or chalk and erasers that are in good condition. I have taught previously in schools where blackboards were falling apart and whiteboards were badly defaced. It has also been my experience to have classrooms with no air-conditioning or fans, and so small that I barely had room to move around the board and front row of seated students. Large, well-lit air-conditioned classrooms with functioning boards and adequate bulletin boards go a long way in improving teacher morale.

2. Cafeteria

If teachers decide not to brown bag, they should be provided with adequate cafeteria facilities and preferably an air-conditioned lunchroom to themselves. The food should be hot, of decent quality, and occasionally vary in selection. Cafeteria facilities are sufficient at my school, but the food is often cold and doesn't vary very often. No wonder many of my colleagues go off campus for lunch.

3. Faculty Rooms

About half of my school working day is spent in a faculty room shared with 11 other teachers checking papers and preparing lessons. Although the room is comfortably air-conditioned, teachers' desks are too small and there is insufficient storage space for books, documents, and student papers. There is also inadequate room to meet with more than one student. Many desks have no locks, so it is impossible to secure important things.

4. No Faculty Lounge

During the first year at my school, we had a very good little lounge furnished with a sofa and armchairs. Teachers could go into the lounge during breaks to relax and chat with other teachers without disturbing others who were working. During my second year, the school administration took away our lounge and the morale of teachers dropped considerably.

5. Lack of Elevators

My school has inadequate elevators for faculty use. On our school campus, there are five different instructional buildings, but only one of them is equipped with an elevator. In the other four-floor buildings, the elderly and other teachers with health problems occasionally have extreme problems climbing the stairs to get to classes.

Improving Teacher Morale - Management Practices

School management practices have played a big part in dampening the enthusiasm, confidence, and loyalty of many teachers. Some of these practices include:

1. Micromanaging

During the second year of EFL teaching in Thailand, my school had a change in administration. The administration which had given foreign teachers considerable autonomy in the classroom was replaced by one which took micromanaging to the limit. Every morning the new administrator of our English Program would patrol the corridors and peep her head into each classroom. Every teacher was constantly under the microscope from the clothes they were wearing that day to whether they dotted their "i"s or crossed their "t"s on the board. My colleagues and I hated this, and teacher morale soon headed south in a hurry. Almost every test or teaching material submitted by teachers was nit-picked to the limit, resulting in anger and loss of self-confidence by some instructors. After a near mutiny by the teachers, the administrator backed off and morale quickly improved.

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2. Bad or No Communication with Teachers

One of the biggest gripes most of my colleagues and I had was being the last in school to know when activities would be scheduled and classes canceled, or when early dismissal was allowed for students and teachers. You can't imagine the unhappiness and frustration of teachers who showed up for a class that would never be held.

3. No Praise, Rewards, or Appreciation for Work Well-Done

When I worked with the government, morale was very good and most people enjoyed coming to the office every day. Besides having promotion opportunities, all employees were rewarded for excellent work with cash awards, letters of appreciation, and paid time off. Most of this did not exist for employees in my school. Although most teachers were given yearly salary increases up to a capped amount, there was no special recognition given for outstanding or extra work done by instructors. There seemed to be only criticism given such as when a parent complained to the school about her daughter. Letters of appreciation, cash awards, and paid time off didn't exist at my school. The teacher who skated by doing the absolute minimum amount of work required was rewarded in the same way as an instructor who "busted his ass" doing an excellent job. Because many teachers felt unappreciated and undervalued, they started adopting the attitude that what the supervisor wanted was not necessarily what she would get from them.

4. Inadequate or No Team Building Activities

During my career with the government, team-building activities such as Christmas parties, picnics, employee farewell luncheons, and occasional birthday parties were held outside the office during noon or early afternoon hours. Through these activities, coworkers bonded more with each other and developed better working relationships. I can remember very few team-building activities at the school where I taught. It seemed that when an infrequent team-building activity was held, it was in response to increasingly strong criticism from teachers. The team-building activity was in essence appeasement and equivalent to trying to put a small bandage on a big festering wound.

5. No Suggestions From Teachers

Almost all businesses are interested in knowing the opinions of their employees. For this reason, they provide suggestion boxes and encourage employees to use them. This idea didn't exist at my school. Management would do exactly as it pleased, and didn't seem interested in valuing the suggestions of teachers.

School morale doesn't only include student morale. It encompasses teacher morale which has been neglected and insufficiently addressed today by the school management. If our schools and quality of education are to improve, teacher morale and issues in school facilities and management practices must be confronted and solved.

Duncan Discusses How to Improve Teacher Morale in the USA

Improving Teacher Morale

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 09, 2014:

&BrownBeauty Thank you very much for your comments.

Brown Beauty on February 02, 2014:

It is difficult to function with people who think they know everything and everything they think they know is wrong. Team building is just micro-management and nobody gave a hoot about the employees' ideas, only what the management wanted. Micro-management, insincere 'rewards' of eating a single meal that was of no interest when them paying the power bill and gas would have been nice. People I'd never seen before lining up to wave goodbye at the final 'meeting' did not impress me. Then again, I've had proper jobs and the gelding farm where the students could run roughshod over all authorities was not going to be acceptable to me since I knew how a normal or acceptable work environment is supposed to be.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 26, 2013:


Thank you once again for commenting on my "Improving Teacher Morale" hub. Your comments are right on the mark! I really appreciate them.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 26, 2013:


I appreciate your comments on this hub. Yes, it really hurts a teacher's morale when only a handful of parents show up at a PTA open house. Thank you very much for sharing this hub.

moonlake from America on May 26, 2013:

Interesting hub. Teacher moral should be the most important that includes administration and parents. If they're not happy our kids won't be happy. Look at how they saved so many children in OK when we're not there they are our children's lifelines.

Sorry somehow this didn't get put in my first statement.

moonlake from America on May 26, 2013:

I remember going to our son's class the teacher wanted to get to know the parents and show everyone around. When I got there I ask him where the other parents were he said no one else showed up. I could see the disappointment in his face. I think that is awful when there is a good teacher and this kind of thing happens to him or her.

Voted up and shared on your hub.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 25, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading this hub and commenting on it. I'm very happy that you liked it, and especially appreciate you sharing it.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 25, 2013:


I'm happy that you read and commented on this hub. Thank you very much for your praise, votes, and sharing.

deergha from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!! on March 24, 2013:

Very time relevant hub and a subject which needs to be addressed with much focus for the stronger growth of the next Gen. The importance of motivating teachers and to maintain the level of morale is the need of the time so that the students enjoy study. Very nicely put up hub and I have enjoyed reading it. Shared and votes +++++++

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 24, 2013:

This is one aspect which needs to be highlighted and you have done a great job here. Unfortunately boosting teacher morale is not thought of as important.

Voted up, useful and shared.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 12, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading this hub and commenting. I really appreciate your good remarks and will do all I can to try to improve teacher morale at my school and others.

Amanda Littlejohn on March 12, 2013:

A very interesting hub. You make some great points and I totally agree with you that much more could often be done to boost the morale and sense of being appreciated among our teachers who all work so hard and sometimes in very difficult circumstances.

It's great to read all your positive suggestions for practical ways that these problem could be resolved and more support and acknowledgement giving to teaching staff in our schools.

Bless you. :)

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 21, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading and for very interesting useful comments. I appreciate your insights and am also grateful for your sharing and pinning of this hub.

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on February 20, 2013:

I definitely agree, and teacher morale is a big problem in many countries. It doesn't help that the public opinion of teachers is that they have shorter working hours, long holidays and an 'easy' job.

Back in my home state, teachers are striking again - their wages are low, the teaching workload has risen drastically, class sizes have increased, and the government is implementing a 'performance' based system, based on the test scores of the students (not an objective indicator of performance).

When I went through school, the teachers also regularly protested against such conditions, and weren't allowed to do any extra-curricular activities. After school music, sports, drama, and even language classes were forbidden to be taught.

In Japan, I was micro-managed outside of my teaching time, even during the crisis in Fukushima (where I was working). No useful information was provided during the crisis, and even though it was school holidays, we were expected to sit in an office, with nothing to do (the Japanese English teachers inflexibly prepared classes at the beginning of the work week, when they know where they are up to in the textbook). Morale then was terrible.

Where I currently work teaching adults, I am a 'freelancer'. Occasional training courses are offered, but there are no team building activities, no lounge or staffroom for teachers, and the pay is very low. Classes cost very little for the participants, so they often just don't turn up when busy. It can feel very cold without support, recognition, and more conscientious students!

Thank you for an insightful article - shared and pinned!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 13, 2012:


Thank you very much for reading this hub. I appreciate your comments and encouragement.

Adama Gidado on December 13, 2012:

I agree with this hub and think that if these things can improve for teachers, they will be much more happier with greater morale. This hub also comes with great information for teachers and administrators alike. Thank you.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 10, 2012:


Thank you very much for reading this article and commenting on it. I sincerely appreciate your comments.

Emmanuel Kariuki from Nairobi, Kenya on December 09, 2012:

Paul, it seems teachers all over the world share the same problems. I recall overpriced food in the cafeteria, causing teachers to travel out of the compound in search of affordable food. Another 'micromanager' would ask students to forward notes that teachers had dictated for scrutiny besides peeping periodically through a glass window on the door. As for team building activities, that seems to be for industries and other corporations, at least where I come from.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 09, 2012:


Thank you very much for your very insightful comments. I really appreciate your comments.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 09, 2012:


You are absolutely correct. A teacher must be positive and full of inspiration so that he or she can motivate students. Thanks for reading and your very good comments.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 09, 2012:


Thanks for reading this hub. I really appreciate your good comments and thanks for sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 09, 2012:

Spoken from the mouth of experience. Well done and a very important message for administrators. I have been in schools that micromanaged and it was a killer for morale. Teachers must be trusted to do what they do best; to micromanage is to quiet the voice of creativity, and it drowns out the passion that is in most teachers. Well done, Paul.

DON BALDERAS on December 09, 2012:

More than whatever, the teacher nees to keep a box full of inspiration and motivation to face each day full of good and positive ideas about teaching and about students. Nobody will give him this but himself. The kind of students who will leave each classroom daily will have to look forward too to have the kind of teachers who will engage them better and with a more personal touch.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on December 09, 2012:

I agree, Paul. It is so important to ensure that teacher morale is looked after first for they are the ones who will then help to boost student morale. Thanks for sharing important read which I share.

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