The State of Teacher Engagement
In its most recent State of the American Workplace report, Gallup found that only 30% of employees are engaged in their day-to-day jobs, meaning they are involved and enthusiastic about their work. Of the remaining two-thirds of employees, 52% are not engaged – they do what is necessary and put in their time, but don’t have a desire or feel obligated to do anything more than the minimum requirements; and 18% are actively disengaged – having lost the passion and interest in their work altogether (Gallup, State of the American Workplace 2010-2012 report).
These findings have serious implications for how we foster a school environment where people feel appreciated and valued. If our teachers aren’t motivated to teach at high levels, how can our students be motivated to learn at high levels? With just ten weeks left in the school year, I thought I would highlight three strategies that school leaders can implement now in order to increase staff and teacher engagement.
1. Build Trusting Relationships
First and foremost, we need to demonstrate that we truly care about our employees by building and strengthening trusting relationships. One way to achieve this is by listening and implementing feedback loops to ensure everyone is heard and actions are taken.
If your school doesn’t have a distributive leadership model in place, consider organizing a team for the remainder of the year in which staff at all levels are represented by teacher leaders who bring their concerns to the table, along with possible solutions. Have the team select 1-2 items to improve by the end of the school year and provide time to complete the work and report on progress so that everyone shares in the experience.
By giving our teachers reasonable control over what they do, we support their need for autonomy and exhibit our commitment to addressing their concerns.
2. Motivate Teachers Individually
Second, find ways to individually motivate teachers and staff to strive hard to continue meeting the needs of students through the last days of school. This is especially important for first year teachers who may be particularly challenged and just trying to get through the day.
According to research conducted by The New Teacher Project, www.tntp.org, the four key skills that have the strongest links to first-year teacher growth are the instructor’s ability to set well-defined expectations, deliver instruction clearly, use time well, and effectively implement routines. Therefore to ensure teachers experience professional growth, let’s up our game and provide more frequent, short observations followed with explicit feedback that provides them with a few actionable next steps that they can implement each week. When teachers can demonstrate mastery of their own key skills, they are more engaged and focused on increasing student learning as well.
3. Recognize Teachers’ Value
Finally, teachers and staff need to have a sense of belonging and understand the contribution they make to our school’s goals. When we focus on their strengths and provide them with opportunities to use those strengths, their motivation increases and they begin to reconnect to the reasons they went into education in the first place.
Here are some ideas to try for the last quarter of the year:
- Invite teachers who enjoy sharing their work with others to coach some of the newer teachers.
- Request those who have natural magnetism and charm to be the greeters and hosts at upcoming social events for parents and staff.
- Ask the staff members who give meticulous attention to detail and timeliness to contribute to projects that require lots of structure and long-range planning.
- Invite the employees who enjoy managing all the variables to figure out the best way to get things done to create study groups or peer coaching projects.
- Request teachers who participate in non-school related activities, such as civil war reenactments, to share those experiences with students through a short experiential lesson or unit.
- See if the teachers who conduct powerful classroom discussions or morning meetings would like to do more with their communication strength. I once worked with a school whose student support manager contributed to the building’s monthly focus on core values by teaching a corresponding lesson in each classroom. For example, during the core value of the month for Justice, she dressed up as Lady Justice, complete with a set of scales and a blindfold, and facilitated the students’ understanding of the need for objectivity when presented with a dispute to resolve.
By focusing on the strengths of our teachers and staff, we demonstrate that their contributions to the school’s purpose of educating students are highly valued, helping them to re-ignite their passion for teaching and leading to greater engagement as well as personal satisfaction.
How is your school planning to increase teacher and staff engagement for the remainder of the school year?
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