I am bucking a trend that reveals most teachers become less engaged after their first couple years in the classroom (Teacher Engagement Starts Low, Worsens With Time). More than ever, I am committed and fired up about teaching.
Refusing to acknowledge problems makes improvement a matter of luck
For starters, why don't more schools districts provide yearly teacher engagement surveys in order to improve educational outcomes for children?
When leaders engage the staff, they are
putting students first
Employee engagement feedback would help school leaders directly improve the quality of education by inviting teachers to give measurable feedback about issues that have an impact on student learning. It is a simple, inexpensive tool that could influence planning and communication strategy for school leaders - two areas school districts often come up short. Too many schools are mired in a bureaucratic stranglehold when it comes to improving the employee experience.
Effective school leaders welcome ideas that help them understand their staff better, especially when that feedback is used to encourage all hands on deck to row in the same direction. I cannot imagine an adept school leader scoffing at the opportunity to prioritize and address the concerns of the staff. When the important work of meeting student needs is at stake we should focus on working together without fear of consequences for speaking up and sharing ideas. Meaningful dialogue and identifying priorities that impact student growth is more likely to result from staff input than from a top-down leadership model based on compliance.
Improvement demands awareness
If the goals of the organization are understood, district leaders should have some way to identify why some buildings are succeeding in areas where others may be lacking. How do principals, instructional coaches and other administrators get a true sense of how engaged and committed staff members are to district goals when there is nothing formal in place allowing for teacher voices to be heard?
For some teachers, the reality is that we often feel isolated and wonder if our leaders care what's on our minds - collectively or individually. Employee engagement surveys can provide the entire education team a constructive avenue to work with a clear focus and gain the confidence of teachers. If teachers and school leaders are focused on the same challenges positive outcomes for students are more likely. We should dive into the messy process of meeting student needs together and that happens when we take the time to listen and share ideas.
Face to face conversations and trust are a necessary part of the equation too. In fact, those relationships and honest conversations are the most important aspect of school improvement. Getting to a starting point so we can assess and tackle our challenges is accomplished with regular employee engagement surveys. It just does not make much sense to me that we encourage teachers to take important risks to improve for the sake of student achievement and yet very few school districts take time to effectively survey staff about their levels of engagement. We should expect and support administrators in their mission to grow as leaders and foster a positive culture in our schools.
Twenty-first century learners demand a robust education that includes self-assessment, reflection and an emphasis on growth. We fail our students if we do not insist that teachers and school leaders engage in the same growth mindset. To effectively create a culture of learning for students, school leaders should accept the vulnerability that a growth mindset promotes and seek formal teacher feedback. Setting high expectations for students and helping children meet them requires feedback about the level of engagement of teachers.
Todays' political climate demands multiple
skills of teachers and school leaders. The best
seek feedback to improve.
Learn from the best
Just as we have master teachers serving as mentors, we need to give superintendents more tools to identify the unique leadership skills of building administrators. District leadership teams will be better able to meet students needs if they can identify the strengths and weaknesses of strategies and building personnel. Teachers and leaders, just like our students, feel more valued if their talent is recognized and their voice is valued.
Acknowledging our challenges and improving outcomes for students requires original thinking and new strategies. Employee engagement within our schools needs to be addressed. There's too much at stake to continue with top-down leadership models aimed at compliance rather than growth. We let our students down when we fail to seek feedback and recognize the strengths of teachers and school leaders.