“The education process has to be autonomous and cannot be predicted or regulated from outside. (Bognar, 2009).
Each day more teachers make the decision they put off for a long time. They decide to quit their teaching career and to leave all the struggle behind. If the educational systems do not do their expected role in empowering teachers the drop off rates will turn into a phenomena.
While everyone agrees on that teaching is a very stressful job many do believe that teacher’s empowerment can help teachers to keep going. “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies” is World Teachers’ Day slogan for 2015 introduced by UNESCO. Teachers are required to meet curriculum standards and to teach “for the test“. The academic year is overloaded with duties where planning and marking is mostly made after working hours. However, with such a very demanding job teachers find themselves with least involvement in decision making and realize their voice is reduced to be minimal. The empowerment research agrees the conditions under which teachers work are often set up in such a way as to deny teachers a sense of efficacy, success, and self-worth. There is often too much isolation and surviving on ones’ own. (Terry, 1998)
So how can teachers be empowered and how can this raise the retention rates?
Supportive and insightful leadership
It takes an insightful leadership to realize that teachers’ contribution to decision making enhances the learning process. It gives teachers a share in achieving the success they want to accomplish. Leaders can capitalize the teachers’ strengths that will pay off as a productive involvement towards achieving school vision. Empowered teachers participate in critical decisions that directly affect teaching and learning. Empowering work environments may enhance professionalism, facilitate teacher leadership, improve the quality of work life, and enable effective implementation of school reform (Dee, Henkin, Duemer, 2003)
Empowerment translates in to teacher leadership and exemplifies a paradigm shift with the decisions made by those working most closely with students rather than those at the top of the pyramid. (Terry, 1998). Balls, Eury, and King (2011) in their book “Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound” emphasize that decisions should be made by those who are mostly influenced by them and that conversation about data should be held by decision makers with other stakeholders.
Delegating leadership roles to teachers will give them a say and will instill more accountability. They will embrace the attitude of “Make it happen” as an exchange to the autonomy and trust they are given. Autonomous teachers are more potential to be creative and to initiate solutions to their problems. Preceding to leadership contribution by teachers comes their contribution to setting a clear vision. Clarity of vision will help teachers to follow a path that leads for the desired expectation.
Professional development is essential to teachers’ empowerment. Teachers will professionally grow and will be able to reach the learners with improved approaches. Professional development urges teachers to reflect on their practices, sparks their creativity and help them to build learning communities. Just having the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with colleagues can help a teacher gain a sense of community and belonging. (Murray 2010).
Leaders have to provide resources and time for professional development. One of the main reasons to pursue professional development is to be empowered, to have the opportunity and the confidence to act upon your ideas as well as to influence the way you perform in your profession. (Murray 2010). Professional development and collaboration should be embedded in the school day.
Personalized professional development is vital to teachers’ empowerment. The “one size fits for all” is not accepted in classroom, and shouldn’t be accepted when it’s related to teachers’ learning and growth. Teachers need to have a say on “what” and “how” professional development is delivered to them. The benefit of enhancing one’s own learning skills is an ongoing theme in the literature on adult education. As Dorothy Mackaracher (2004) wrote: “Learning how to learn challenges individual learners to develop skills and knowledge for learning more effectively in various contexts and settings.” There is, therefore, a real need, right now for capacity building in the Education Profession (Wideman, 2011)
Are teachers paid fairly? While this could be an essential question to enhance teachers empowerment, this should be looked at as one factor of many that can raise teachers’ retention rates. Incrementing teacher’s salary upon different roles they play in school will encourage more positive contribution by teachers. But this will only apply if we are giving them enough empowerment to thrive and to play these roles. Otherwise looking for different careers where they can gain the same money for less struggle and stress will be an optimal alternative.
Empowering teachers as leaders was seen as a way to put teachers at the center of the reform movement, to keep good teachers in education, to entice new teachers into the profession, and to reverse a general trend toward treating them as employees who do specific tasks planned in detail by other people. By introducing these new paradigms, the teaching profession will become a truly rewarding experience. (Terry 1998)
Policy and decision makers should realize that teachers’ empowerment is now more significant than it ever was. Education is challenged with globalization and knowledge economy that enforces a transformation in the education paradigm. Without energized, motivated teachers education will keep reforming in a trial and error basis. Without having teachers empowered to be at the center of decision making and reform efforts, education systems will lack the capacity building needed for its progress. Teachers’ drop off will be added to the many other dilemmas education face. We need to create new career-advancement opportunities for teachers, give them greater decision-making authority and responsibility, and allow them to be successful in their work. (Hirsch, 2015)
Balls, D., Eury, A., King, J., (2011). Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound: A Framework for Shared Responsibility and Accountability in Education.
Bognar, B., (2009). Initiating Teachers’ Action Research: Empowering Teachers’ Voices
Dee, R., Henkin, A., Duemer, L., (2003). Structural Antecedents and Psychological Correlates of Teacher Empowerment, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 41 Iss: 3, pp.257 – 277
Murray, A., (2010). Empowering Teachers through Professional Development.
Rebora, A., (2008). Empowering Teachers: A Researcher Seeks Teachers’ Input On How To Improve Their Working Environments. (Interview with Eric Hirsch). Accessed October 30th 2015. http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2008/03/01/02hirsch.h01.html
Terr, P., (1998). Empowering Teachers as Leaders
Wideman, R., (2011). Empowering Teachers and Schools to Play Their
Key Role In Improving Education- A Keynote Address Delivered At The North Eastern Ontario Education Network 2011 Research Carousel: Evidence In The
Classroom – Affecting Student Achievement at the Grassroots Level
Copyrights Bashaer m. Al Kilani @bashaierk 2015