5 Ways to Empower Educators

Screenshot 2015-07-14 15.02.30
Ever feel totally empowered? Like you could do anything? I know that when I feel this way, I sure can get a lot done, more than I thought was possible when I began.
When I’m not empowered?
I’m disengaged from the task or problem that I’m working on. Now this happens for a number of reasons – I’m tired, I don’t feel well, I’m confused and don’t understand what I’m suppose to really do. However, when I was a teacher, one of the biggest reasons: I knew that whatever I suggested would go unnoticed.
I remember when we were asked as a staff by our principal to come up with a different supervision format since many of us were dissatisfied with the current system. We had morning meetings, did brainstorming and came up with several different options which we presented to the staff only to have the principal make a suggestion and then go with that suggestion. Totally disempowered! Total waste of time. Disengaged.
Disengaged to empowered
My recent post dealt with disengagement. One of the stats that I found stated that 70% of teachers report being disengaged at work. As I thought about this and wondered why teachers are disengaged?  I reflected that maybe it wasn’t that they were disengaged but feeling undervalued as professionals, and like our group, were not being given the opportunity to lead and use our talents. As Liz Wiseman says in The Multiplier Effect – Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools 

Multipliers know how to find this dormant intelligence, challenge it, and put is to use at its fullest. …. They are genius makers. They know that at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is not the lone genius but rather the smart leader who also brings out smarts and capability in everyone around him or her.

Too often teachers are told what they need to do, what they need to teach, how they need to teach it. People visit their rooms and critique their performance. That’s part of the problem, it’s seen as a performance. Yet most teachers I know see teaching as their calling, it’s their vocation in the traditional sense of the word.
Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work explores people finding their calling – finding their place. If you listen to teachers, you soon get that they were meant to be in the classroom with children. They’re calling is to help students. However, in an attempt to make schooling more efficient and learning more standardized, teachers are being left out of the learning discussions more and more.
Empower the Teachers
So, how can an administrator shift this to empower teachers within the school? Below I present five ideas that might help empower educators which, in turn will help them to feel engaged in the work they are doing.
1. Provide each teacher with a reading budget. Each month. Encourage teachers to read. Share what you are reading. Exploring beyond the traditional educational reading is good – and have them share – each month at a staff meeting – in groups do a book sharing.
2. Have TEDstyle talks every month. Each month have teachers give a TEDtalk about something they are doing in their classroom or something they are learning about. Don’t know what at TED talk looks like, check it out here.  If the teachers need some resources:
3. Have teachers share.  A blog post, article, or something they read on twitter or Pinterest. Have each teacher share with other teachers about something that really resonated with them. Again, this can be done at a staff meeting in groups. Don’t know where to start with blog posts? Here are a few suggestions to get started:
Teach 100 – a list of international educational blogs. There are more than a 100!
Now, you might not want to limit this to blogs but also add in Youtube videos and Podcasts. Some great non-education podcasts that I recommend include:
ReadtoLead Podcast – Jeff Brown
Accidental Creative – Todd Henry
This is Your Life – Michael Hyatt
The Moment  – Brian Koppelman
7 Levels to become a Greater Influencer – Ryan Eller and Jerrod Murr
The Big Shift – Bill Baren
The Portfolio Life – Jeff Goins
Live Life Zoomed – Pam Moore
Beyond the To-Do List – Erik Fisher
Freakonomics Radio – Stephen Dubner
4. Have teachers visit the rooms of other teachers. Find time to have teachers observe other teachers. As an administrator I had the privilege of visiting many classrooms and my own teaching improved because I was able to learn from the teachers. Why not allow teachers to learn from one another through observing each other teach? Start out in your own building but see if there are other schools interested in sharing and co-operating to do this.
5. Have teachers lead staff meetings and other presentations. Have teachers talk about the successes and growth that is happening at the school. Give them opportunity to lead by supporting their ideas and letting them lead projects and groups. Don’t just leave this for those who volunteer. “I’m not very good at…….” is an invitation for you to support. “What is holding you back from being successful?” will show that you are interested in them being successful.
I don’t think any of these are difficult to do but I do think that each of these will  help to empower teachers as professionals. I wouldn’t suggest doing them all at once! I would also suggest that, as an administrator, you lead by example in doing these – give a TEDsyle talk, share your own blog or blogs you read. Also, give teachers the gift of time to do these – teach their class once or twice before they give their talk, find ways so they can visit other classrooms, nudge them to lead the staff meeting or presentation and help them prepare for it. If we are truly concerned about the level of student engagement then being concerned about teacher engagement should also be a priority. Rather than engaging teachers in specific agendas, empower them to be leaders, using their talents and abilities to share and grow together with other teachers.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *