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How to re-engage teachers post Covid – 8 meaningful ways

Dr. Lyn Bird

Lyn supports leaders and delivers PLD across NZ. She is passionate about coaching for improved performance and developing leadership capability.

Staff Brainstorming Around Table

Over the past two COVID-19 Pandemic ridden years, teachers’ competence, relatedness and autonomy may have been compromised. These three basic psychological needs may not have been met, or only partially met, leading to feelings of overwhelm, emotional exhaustion, disconnectedness and a sense that they have no say over what is/was happening, and what they were/are expected to do.

Post COVID, ensuring these three basic psychological needs are met could be the most important step before beginning/re-igniting your teachers’ professional development or initiating new programmes. All three of these needs have wellbeing implications which in turn have performance implications. For example, competency is challenged when we are learning something new. We can feel unsure or even unable to do it. If we are feeling incompetent we are unmotivated. However, as competence increases, we become more motivated and self assured. If competence is high, then wellbeing is increased.

Step 1. Help your team to reconnect.

When we feel connected to others and cared for, our well being increases. Some ideas for reconnecting your team:

    1. Provide a number of fun social activities to help staff reconnect and relate to each other

    2. At staff meetings ensure there are cross-team activities

    3. Buddy teachers up and offer them a half hour release to have a coffee and chat during school time

Step 2. Rebuild feelings of competency.

When our competence increases we become more motivated and self-assured. If competence is high, then wellbeing is increased. Some ideas for helping your team build and regain competency:

    4. Gather data on teachers’ feelings regarding their teaching challenges and needs at this time. Analyse the data to identify and inform how ready people are to undertake new professional learning.

    5. Share teaching practice across the school to highlight internal expertise/capability, and expectations around effective consistent practice. This can increase feelings of validation and bring focus back on collective efficacy

Step 3. Rebuild a sense of autonomy around practice.

Help your team regain a sense of autonomy around their practice. Just as with student voice, if people feel they have voice and choice in their work, then wellbeing increases. Ideas for building autonomy:

    6. In cross-teams, re-visit your school’s curriculum framework and unpack what each element looks/feels/sounds like now in a hybrid learning world. Collectively re-work the essence of the curriculum elements to ensure a shared understanding, articulation and implementation.

    7. Offer ‘sand-pit’ teacher inquiry time, unrelated to a whole school initiative, where teachers collect data within their class or team based on a hunch, and then explore new initiatives/interventions to grow their practice and improve outcomes for students.

    8. Value teacher collaboration by acknowledging the innovation in their responses to the COVID crisis and their flexibility to act collaboratively in various ways. Provide the time to document this best practice and challenges in order to grow their collaborative practice further

    A focus on helping your team to reconnect with each other, to feel motivated and to have a voice will lay a firm foundation for future professional development and/or the introduction of new initiatives

A recent UNESCO publication concludes:

Today it is clear that nothing can substitute for collaboration between teachers, whose function is not to apply ready-made technologies or pre-prepared didactics, but to fully assume their role as knowledge enablers and pedagogic guides. The capacity to initiate, experiment and innovate that has been unleashed during these pandemic disruptions must be allowed to continue.

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