An evaluation of educators’ morale in schools in Wellington

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Teaching is one of the most challenging and demanding professions in the world. It appears that teachers are being stretched to the limit and that this has a negative impact on educator morale. Expectations placed on educators seem to be increasing exponentially in South Africa.

Seen against the background of the above problem that educators’ morale can be influenced negatively by various aspects, a study was undertaken to analyse and assess educator morale in schools in the Wellington area. The main aim of the study was to establish which factors influence educators’ morale and to evaluate how educators’ morale influences the functioning of schools. The last aim of the study was to determine what can be done to assure continual high educator morale.

The main research aims were as follows:

  • What aspects influence educator morale in schools in the Wellington area?
  • How does educator morale influence schools?
  • What guidelines can be followed and what recommendations can be made to ensure high educator morale?

A clear distinction is made between the words moral and moraleMoral refers to morality, which can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with goodness or rightness. Morale has to do with the degree to which an individual’s needs are fulfilled and how the individual recognises satisfaction, for example in the job situation. High morale is characteristic of an individual who displays an interest in his/her job and/or who is enthusiastic about his/her job. Morale is thought of as a feeling, a mental attitude, an emotional attitude, a state of mind determined by the individual’s expectation of the level of contentment regarding those needs which he/she perceives as significantly affecting his/her entire work situation. Morale has been explained as the professional interest and enthusiasm that a person displays towards the achievement of individual and group goals in a given job situation. The term educator moralerefers to a positive work ethic when people are busy with the teaching of learners in education. Educator morale involves attitude, enthusiasm, interest and behaviour that educators show in their involvement in the school, community, governing body, education department and with learners in their classroom.

The aspects that influence educators’ morale realise on different levels, one of which is the national level, and includes the following: continuous curriculum changes, compensation of educators, negative publicity in the media, multiculturality in the classroom, support services with reference to curriculum advisors, ages of teachers, professional respect, and the status of teaching and work security.

Other aspects that influence educators’ morale are realised in schools and in the community are the following: balance between the work place and the home, management of a school, promotion, fair treatment of educators, discipline, physical amenities and facilities, the support of communities, age, gender and educational qualifications, organisational climate and culture, parent interest and support, staff relations and working hours.

The third group of aspects that influence educators’ morale realise in the classroom. These include the daily teaching task of the educator. These work-related aspects manifest when the educational task in the classroom becomes the driving force to motivate teachers daily. The internal motivation of teachers is based on self-respect, responsibilities, and a feeling of successful task fulfilment. These aspects relate to Maslow’s higher-order needs and therefore contribute more to higher educator morale. They are the following: recognition for execution of tasks, interaction with learners and their successes, learning-directed factors such as the love and obligation of teachers towards their learners, autonomy in the execution of tasks, work satisfaction, work load, stress and significance of the task of an educator.

The effect of high educator morale is associated with esprit de corps, motivated and positive staff, cooperation and cohesiveness and work satisfaction and a positive school climate. School climate is very important because it is “like the air we breathe – it tends to go unnoticed until something is seriously wrong” (Freiberg 1999:1). The implications of low educator morale are high absenteeism, constant changes in staff, negative attitudes and unmotivated staff members, stress and diminished physical health and work burnout.

The literature study formed the starting point of this investigation. That was followed by a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods within an interpretivist research paradigm. A questionnaire was used to collect data and feedback was given to three focus groups. The questionnaire concentrated mainly on factors at national and provincial level, those in the school community and at school-related levels, while the third group related to the daily educational task of the educator in the classroom.

The quantitative instrument (questionnaire) was handed out to 137 respondents in schools in the Wellington area. The validity of the responses and the findings were tested by means of feedback to the focus groups to get their views about the findings of the literature study and the feedback from the questionnaires. The reliability of the data was tested by means of interviews with three focus groups. Triangulation was applied by means of qualitative and quantitative research methods, the literature study and focus group interviews.

With regards to all aspects that influence educator morale on the different levels, recommendations are provided to improve educator morale. Unfortunately, many of the factors that affect teachers’ morale are regulated by South African educational laws. Although low morale is caused by factors at national level, in schools, the community and in the classroom, sustainable high morale must be managed daily by school management teams and governing bodies, supported by the provincial and national education departments. The guidelines and recommendations included here can be used to ensure continued high educator morale in schools in South Africa.

The article ends with the words of Yong (1999:8), who summarises the effective management of educator morale by means of adequate school management when he says: “Teachers are the ‘vehicle’ that determines the success of an educational system. A teacher is like a car, which needs regular maintenance and service for it to perform at maximum capacity.”

Keywords: educator autonomy; educator morale; educator motivation; effects of high and low educator morale; positive school climate; stress; task significance; work burnout; workload of teachers; work satisfaction

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: ’n Evaluering van opvoedermoreel in skole in Wellington

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