Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kim Frencken: It's not too late to turn around school districts with low morale, high stress

Stress is on the rise while morale is dropping like the early winter temps. I am constantly scanning the internet for news stories and blogs, just to keep current outside of my little world. I also talk to several teachers from different districts. The ones that are content in their districts know someone in another district that is struggling. Why is there so much stress and why does morale continue to drop?

Years before I left Joplin R-8, I brought this up to administration. Morale was low. What could we do to boost it? I sincerely wanted to be part of the solution, several of us wanted to be the problem solvers. We wanted to help, but every effort was turned away. Administration was in denial. We didn't have a morale issue in Joplin. Everything. Was. Fine. You know what they say when a woman tells you she is fine? The word fine is a nice cover-up, but it doesn't get to the root of the problem and fix anything. It acts like a bandaid. Sometimes a bandaid is all you need, but in some cases, even the largest bandaid won't do the trick.

In some cases, administration thinks that offering a plastic mug or school t-shirt is all that is needed. Or, a pep talk and marching band at opening day. Or, maybe e-mails detailing a teacher's responsibilities and reminding them of their obligations. Truth is, teachers just want to be respected and treated professionally. That alone will boost morale.

I can only speak for myself and the teachers that I know, but respect and professionalism were in short supply. We were controlled by fear and intimidation. I know that there are some reading this that are skeptical. The ones that aren't a teacher or don't personally know a teacher. Controlled by fear and intimidation??? Yes. We weren't a bunch of renegades or mavericks. We were hard working, give-it-our-all teachers. We believed. We trusted. We were let down.

It isn't too late for things to turn around in Joplin or any other district that is struggling with low morale and high stress. Teachers are forgiving. They will often face opposition because they love helping kids. Listen, support, and respect. It isn't much, but it is a place to start and it will make all the difference.

(Former Joplin R-8 teacher Kim Frencken's writing can be found at her blog, Chocolate for the Teacher. The page provides links to her products for teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers, Teachwise, and Teacher's Notebook.)

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