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Preserving Goodwill

Every day, I witness a large majority of our teachers are doing little things that go the extra mile in ways that contribute to their school’s success. The list is extensive: a lunchtime dance club, opening the library for our avid readers, sports programs, volunteering to take on a particular project, writing a grant application, or covering a colleague’s class for 10 minutes.

Why is this? As teachers, we often see it as our moral imperative to ensure our students get the best experience possible. The research refers to this type of contribution as citizenship behaviour, which means that employees engage in extra-role behaviour and go beyond the formal expectations of their role and help out.

It’s just goodwill, and the benefits are extensive. It’s one of the key ingredients that keep our schools running at their optimal level. Goodwill can be defined as acting out of a sense of moral obligation or duty. As teachers, we are undertaking particular actions not because of what it will produce in terms of an expectation, but instead, we see it morally as the right thing to do to provide the best experience for our students.

Goodwill is everywhere in schools, and placing a value or measure on it is challenging. It’s an intangible asset to a school, so we need to preserve it.

Unfortunately, this year, I’m seeing goodwill being stretched. As the impact of covid still lingers, teachers are forced to take copious amounts of extra classes, step in and cover for absent colleagues who are isolating and run double classes with up to 50 students. They’re going up and beyond, maybe not by choice, but by need. Goodwill isn’t just when we choose something; it’s doing it because of the moral imperative or necessity. It’s no one’s fault, and the reasons it’s happening are often beyond our control, but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting or easier to deal with.

So, as we head into the last few days of the term, it’s worth doing a quick pulse check on the goodwill at your school. It’s one thing to talk about, but the bigger question is ‘what are you going to do about it?’ Think about ways to help your colleagues refuel their tanks for term 2.

As a starting point, you may want to consider the suggestions below….

  • Outwardly express gratitude to those around you. It’s the little words of appreciation that can make a big difference.
  • You may not have human resources, but you will have financial resources. A little splurge on your staff won’t hurt. A coffee van set up at school, morning tea or a gift of thanks may feel a little superficial, but it’s the thought that counts. Be careful not to ask someone already stretched to take care of this…and it’s not a BYO plate of food.
  • Do you need that meeting? Cancel it and the next, and maybe even the one after that.
  • Be careful not to cancel the extra-curricular program as the first option. It may be easier to say no to camps, clubs and excursions, but this can be detrimental to the engagement. They’re often the first to go when we’re stretched, but they can make the most significant difference.
  • Where possible, make sure the distribution of people chipping in is equal. Is everyone getting their hands dirty and taking extra classes?

Not only is a school that runs on goodwill fulfilling for the students, but it can also be equally as wholesome for the staff. It’s crucial that we preserve it.

Check out other articles Simon has written here.