Newsflash – Low Hanging Morale Makes An Easy Target

Today was the perfect weather to have “one of those days.” You know what I mean? It’s gloomy outside, still really cold, but that damp cold that nobody likes even if you are a “winter person”…you’re not necessarily in a bad mood, but you’re not exactly Ms. Sunshine either since your coffee seemed to have achieved nothing and you are wondering if it was actually a decaf in disguise…the kids are walking around your classroom like zombies, all blank stares and no energy but not the good kind of quiet, that creepy, vacant, very unproductive quiet. Am I painting a clear enough picture?

I hated those days. Those were the days when I was bored, the kids were bored, even the mice were too bored to come out and play during silent reading. NOTHING happened. No saucy behavior, no drama to deal with, no laughing, no nothing.

Talk about low morale, huh?

Speaking of low morale…I’ve had this piece from Ed Week on the back burner for a loooong time and this seems like just the moment to pull that rabbit out of my hat. Ya know, what with my obsession with the notion of firing an entire staff of teachers with the full support of the federal government and all. (Yup, still not over it friends, still not over it. Although I think I did hear somewhere today that the school board and the teachers union are thinking about re-opening that can of worms and going back to the negotiating table which I guess is okay, but feels a little like the damage has been done. And it stings.)

Anyhoo, Walt Gardner begins this piece with the sentence, “One of the criticisms frequently leveled at public schools is that they’re run for the benefit of teachers rather than for students.” Now, before you get all fired up (but down that drink you were about to throw at the screen…sip your whatever and relax), our friend Walt is not endorsing this sentiment. In fact, he is simply pointing out that this is totally ridiculous…schools are run for the benefit of children or at least they’re supposed to be. Although, I don’t see what’s wrong with thinking about benefiting teachers too…I mean, I think we’re pretty important pieces of the puzzle too.

Evidently Walt agrees with me, because he discusses the negative impact that demoralizing teachers can have on their students. As I found myself saying many many times, my mood set the tone in that classroom. Yes, a massive behavioral issue or lovely display of friendship could totally shift the chemistry but really REALLY when I was pissy, the room felt pissy. When I was feeling great, the room felt great too. And that’s because we are human (not robots, not the devil and certainly not lazy and money grubbing as many would like to believe) and work in a setting where relating person to person is everything.

I feel like we should be singing that camp song “Do Your Ears Hang Low” except change the words to “Does Your Morale Hang Low?”

Everybody now!

Does your morale hang low?
Does it wobble to and fro?
Can you tie it in a knot?
Can you tie it in a bow?
Can you throw it over your shoulder…

What? You’ve had enough? Okay, I’ll stop.

My point is (and yes I DO have one) that perhaps the Powers That Be (Arne Duncan, I’m looking at YOU) never considered all the ramifications of their actions. Not only was axing a whole group of teachers guillotine style demoralizing for the teachers it happened to, I think it was demoralizing to teachers everywhere. I mean, I feel like the article announcing the firing might as well have been “Off With Their Heads: School Board Engages In Total Ass Hattery.” To think that our performance, our efforts, our knowledge is to be judged by a test that our friends take over the course of a few days that make up a fraction of our school year…a day which could easily be “one of those” days that count more than any other day for the rest of the year…and that we could end up getting fired so that the school can “Turn Around” is a tad demoralizing if you ask me.

So, yes, my morale is hanging low in addition to wobbling to and fro. Thank you for asking.

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  • I actually posted a similar thing to morale and not caring about students on my blog today, but it was more personal and not so big picture.

    March 5, 2010 at 12:22 pm
  • I'm still amazed that people get so down on us as teachers. It reminds me of the quote from Donald Quinn
    "If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job. "
    Why are we always the scapegoats. I wish that it would be mandatory for every parent (or Arne Duncan) to volunteer in a classroom for a few days before making any comments on how money grubbing and selfish they think teachers are.

    March 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm
  • True enough about teacher morale. My school district made huge, colossal mistakes at the beginning of the year – top-down decisions about curriculum and pacing with no input from teachers or, in fact, anyone who had been in a classroom in YEARS. (Do an internet search on "Jeffrey Hernandez" and "Palm Beach County" and you'll get an idea of the problem.) Teachers were unhappy, more overworked than usual, and stressed with all the changes, and I know the attitude trickled down to the students. It's even more frustrating when you're working so hard and nobody at the district is listening, or even cares what is happening. It poisoned the entire first semester, and it hasn't gotten much better. I know our school grade is going to suffer this year – it'll end up being a lost year, unfortunately.

    March 6, 2010 at 4:25 pm

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