For years now, public school teachers across the globe have struggled to maintain their morale.
Whether it’s due to the pressures of state testing, the lack of interest from students or the inability to control their own classrooms, teachers’ low morale has a trickle-down effect that will affect the curiosity of children.
“The biggest thing I hear teachers complaining about [are] when they are asked to do something,” said Brenda Ottinger, principal of Highland Elementary School in Greeneville, Tennessee. “They always say, ‘I thought [the school system] was going to take things off of us, instead of putting more things on us,’ no matter how small something is they are asked to do.”
Ottinger has worked in the Greeneville City Schools System for 25 years, and has always seen an an influx in low teacher morale.
“[Teachers] become stressed and don’t feel like they are supported by the administration both at the school level and the system level,” said Ottinger.
According to Ottinger, teacher morale seems to be getting worse. She said that the teachers who complain the most are the teachers with the most discipline problems in the classroom.
“Teachers are held to such high standards,” said Ottinger. “Teacher evaluation now includes student [test] scores, when the standards are sometimes not appropriate for the grade level.”
Highland Elementary School is also the smallest school in the district, as well as the lowest socioeconomic school. This, along with Highland’s high number of transient students, makes it hard for teachers to prepare them for the future.
“I think right now, reading teachers are feeling the greatest pressure,” Ottinger said. “Reading has historically low test scores.”
Of course, low teacher morale affects the students just as much as the teachers. Their teaching gets lazy and they might not push their students as hard as they should.
“[It’s important to] constantly try to encourage and build teachers up,” Ottinger said. “Even just giving them a note or a candy bar can be the difference between a bad day and a good one.”
Highland isn’t alone in this struggle. The strenuous nature of the classroom has put unprecedented amounts of pressure on teachers.
“Many times you can see a domino effect if you let the poor teacher morale continue,” Ottinger said. “You need to stop it as soon as you can.”