The spring term can be a gloomy part of the school year for many school staff – so what can leaders do to boost morale and lift spirits?
1. Be present
Never underestimate the value of going for a walk, greeting staff and having those incidental conversations that take place in passing. Simply being visible and present at key times, whether it’s in the playground, staffroom or popping into a few classrooms before the start of the day, can create a sense of camaraderie.
2. The power of words
Taking time to celebrate successes and say heartfelt ‘well dones’ and ‘thank yous’ can give colleagues an instant lift and help them feel valued. A private word of appreciation, a note left in a team member’s pigeonhole or a more public announcement – whatever it is, let staff know that their efforts are appreciated. I once received a tiny handwritten note from a previous headteacher congratulating me on a fantastic start to my year leader role. I still have it, and nine years later I continue to find encouragement in those sincere words.
3. Find time to talk
Getting to know staff as individuals takes time. Building in opportunities for professional discussions can be a powerful way to encourage and inspire. Enabling staff to talk about their own learning and aspirations while offering support and guidance can be energising. I was fortunate enough to sit in on some professional interviews and saw first-hand how, through skilled questioning, active listening and a genuine interest in staff development, my headteacher mentor motivated her team and spurred them on to achieve more, ultimately improving outcomes for the entire community.
4. Share the bigger picture
It’s easy for us all to be bogged down with minutiae – the intricacies of planning for a wide range of abilities, the complexities of timetabling and arranging cover, the seemingly endless reports for stakeholders. Allowing everyone to step back and review the ‘why’ can help to restore balance and invigorate the team. Building in some space for ‘blue sky thinking’ could yield some pleasantly surprising results!
5. Quick wins
There are plenty of small, quick and easy perks that can serve to provide an instant lift. These can include snacks on the staffroom table, secret buddy schemes and offsite PPA. Meaningful ways of reducing workload can reap long-term rewards. Making a concerted effort to start and finish meetings promptly, reviewing the suitability of agenda items and ensuring CPD is well planned for all can help to alleviate frustration and spread a more positive atmosphere.
With the ever-increasing pressure and pace of school leadership, it’s easy to focus on those never-ending ‘to do’ lists and forget the importance of looking after ourselves. We must take responsibility for our own wellbeing and find ways of replenishing our own energy reserves.
Enjoy a sunset walk, go for a run, catch up with a friend. Set aside some guilt-free time to switch off and take care of yourself, because it’s true what they say – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Farihah Anwar-Simmons is a deputy headteacher; follow her at @FarihahAnwar.