Choosing your tomorrow today. What does this phrase mean to you? Probably your first thought is that it conveys an understanding that what we decide today affects what we become tomorrow. Obviously skills, behaviors, and knowledge learned today increase or decrease the potential for us all to do things in the future. But is there more to this phrase? Can it be parsed out? Take each word one at a time.
Pick up a newspaper or spend a few moments watching the evening news and you will find evidence that many schools across the country are in the midst of a morale crisis. In many states, revised standards for Common Core State Standards implementation are taking a toll on teachers who feel as if they are losing the autonomy to plan lessons as they see fit. In some communities, budget difficulties are leading to job loss and stagnant pay. Increased accountability and new methods of evaluating teachers are also discussed as problems facing educators today. Often what frustrates teachers the most is the perception that their voice is not heard in public discussions about these issues. In describing this state of mind, a friend of mine quips, "Teachers are like France. We know that we don't have any real power but we want to be treated as if we do." In some ways, my friend is right, but I don't think the solution to today's morale problem will be found in treating teachers as if they have power, but rather in truly empowering them to be leaders in and out of the school and contributing members of education policy discussions.
A positive school culture is critical to the success of any school. As educators, we know that staying positive in the wake of planning, paperwork, meetings, grading, and all of the other administrative tasks is tough, especially when we got into this business because we love to work with students. It takes more effort than simply "putting on a happy face," as the musical number goes. The bigger question is always, "How do you do it?"
Personalized learning has proven effective for empowering students to monitor their learning, establish goals, and reflect on progress. As the the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have become a target of focus for educators, we must consider how we are embarking on this learning journey as adults. Providing a professional atmosphere for personalized learning is essential in supporting teachers through the CCSS transition.
Each educator brings forth a unique background based on professional style, years of experience, and depth of CCSS understanding. As learners embracing this educational mind-shift, we each inevitably need something different as we engage in trainings and conversations related to the CCSS. Our learning experiences should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Nor should professional development send us into information overload. As learners, we should be inspired to interact with the knowledge and perspective of the CCSS in order to find our own place within the transition.
Educators working in a positive school culture experience collegiality, trust, and tangible support as leaders and peers, creating an environment where there are high expectations, involvement in decision making, and open communication. Students entering a positive school culture feel safe, engaged, and connected and see school as a place where they can learn and contribute to the world around them. A positive school culture—morale—is the cornerstone of a good school and the foundation for school improvement.
School cultures should support, reinforce, and reflect the well-being of everyone in it, ensuring that students and adults feel valued, respected, and cared for and are motivated to learn, lead, and teach. Join us throughout February and March as we discuss how to build school morale so that administrators, teachers, students, and parents are energized and positive about learning. What practices build morale; empower leaders; and promote trust, mutual respect, and celebration? How can the demands of accountability and high expectations be realized without affecting a positive culture?
Teacher morale matters. So how can schools improve it? The February 2014 issue of Educational Leadership explores why schools must become happier places for educators and how they can make it happen. Articles in this issue discuss both the reality that educators feel underappreciated and the small—or radical—changes everyone connected to schools can make to give educators reasons for optimism.
In her "Perspectives" column, Editor-in-Chief Marge Scherer notes that it's easy to list problems that contribute to low morale, but what is it that builds high morale? How do we rise above the anger and apathy engendered by simultaneously being treated as objects of distrust and being expected to change the world?
I love to watch Tucker when he is learning. His eyes widen, his face lights up, and he cannot contain himself, shouting out answers—no, not answers but ideas and concepts and "ah has"—and he often gets in trouble for being insensitive to his peers who are still struggling to do their work, for being self-centered, and there are times he is frustrated by the trouble he gets into, and other times he seems to accept it as the price he is paying for his education. He grimaces for a moment and then reinvests his energies into his school work. He is eleven years old.
One of my first mentors believed, and so have I, that education is healing.
ASCD continually seeks to provide solutions to the challenges that face educators of all levels. A recent ASCD SmartBrief ED Pulse poll asked readers asked readers what they feel is most important in building educator morale at a school.
Educators throughout the United States convened in Washington, D.C., last week to attend ASCD's legislative conference. Attendees gathered to tell their elected officials that it is time to shift from a narrow reliance on high-stakes testing in determining student and educator proficiency to a broader, more meaningful vision of success that supports each student from early childhood through graduation.
ASCD continually seeks to provide solutions to the challenges that face educators of all levels. A recent ASCD SmartBrief ED Pulse poll asked readers if instituting a longer school day and year will better prepare students for success in college and the workforce.