Being an early childhood educator is one of the hardest positions ever to have. The long hours, little pay, and the disrespect view of the profession is challenging to maintain when there are so many other positions out that there bring a more modest lifestyle as well as less stress. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from staff from other centers is how they feel that they are not valued. Teachers tell me that between the low pay and the many hours that they work causes them to want to leave and start working for other jobs. This is quite alarming. We lose great staff and teachers because they can’t make ends meet in the profession and they don’t feel valued.
I know that there is a lot of talks out there right now and a lot of advocates that are pushing to raise the benefits for early educators so that we can change the professional outlook. If they want us to be teachers in the field, then they have to pay us like teachers. But that area of the problem is going to take some time to change.
I do though want to talk about the issue of the staff not feeling that they are valued or belong within the program. Usually, if your staff are comfortable with management and they try to make the situations the best and are there for their staff, then you have a lot easier time keeping staff. So I thought that this would be a great time to talk about ways to help Directors increase morale within their center.
Here are 10 tips on how you can increase morale within the workplace:
1. Create a positive work environment
When you create a positive work environment and expect that positive work environment from all staff then you will create a place that teachers feel comfortable being at and appreciate the effort that you do to make it a great workplace.
2. Empathize with staff
Remember that at one point you were in their shoes as well and you were the teacher. Remember those days that you didn’t know if this was the right profession for you because lil Johnny hit you or spit on you? We these teachers have those days as well. We have to understand what the person is going through and be able to assure them that it is ok and that everything will work out. You have been there and done that, and you want to show them the same respect that you wish you had been given.
3. Build relationships and a can-do attitude
Get to know your staff. Make them comfortable with you. Let them know that you are human and that you will do anything that you ask them to do. They need to know that you do not think that you are any better than they are. Help the teachers get over the hump of thinking that they can’t do the job. Let them know that the children will test them but they will stop once they realize that they aren’t going to get away with it. Reassure them that everything will be ok.
4. Be there and Be present as a Director
Be there as a director not as just a person in the center. They need to know that you are mobile and present in the classrooms. They need to know as well that if they aren’t following rules that you are going to call them out on it in a professional manner. Don’t make a big deal out of minor things but if you see a teacher that is not doing something appropriate then handle the situation. Don’t let it fester. If you do, then they are going to see that you aren’t going to take care of things and they will keep doing whatever they are not supposed to do, and they won’t respect you. Give them your attention when they come to talk to you. Let them know that you are there physically, logically, and mentally. Not just physically.
5. Seek Staff Input
Let them know that you value their opinion. Now it doesn’t have to be on every decision that you need to make, but it can be on things that have to do with their room or them specifically. This helps teachers take responsibility of not only their classroom but the center in general and helps them see that you value them as a staff member and a part of the team.
6. Recognize Staff hard work and accomplishments
This can be something as simple as posting a picture and caption of a teacher receiving her CDA or bachelors degree in the center and social media. At each staff meeting have a time where you take a moment to recognize some great things that the teachers do. This may embarrass them, but they will appreciate it. Let them know that you see that hard work and see that you are noticing that.
7. Take Professional Development Seriously
If your staff see that you take PD seriously, then they will too. If you provide them with top-notch training, then they will take it seriously. If you require that they receive specifics to keep their job, then they will take it seriously. It needs to be a big deal to enhance the quality of the staff but then also see their selves as professionals and take the job seriously. Help them look at their selves as professionals not babysitters.
8. Provide Motivational Words
Make it a weekly thing to send out a motivational phrase or pictures to show the importance of the work that they do and how important they are. They need to be reminded sometimes, and that can be the one thing that they receive to help them see that they are where they need to be.
9. Have a staff appreciation day or a staff of the month
Doing fun things for your team and getting the families involved is a great way to help your team see that you really do care and want this to be a great work environment. Because the better the work environment the better the care is for the children that you care for. This can be done in many ways. Be creative! Having a Teacher Care committee can help take care of this and come up with a lot of great things.
10. Have Fun!
Make work fun! Have PJ days or backward days. Mix it up. Have potluck lunches or buy pizza for everyone. Take it out of work. Sometimes it’s great to get to know them out of work and let them get comfortable with you. Not only will they see that you are human they will understand that it’s ok to be a real person in work and outside of work and that you really do care about them.