Comprehensive Teacher Engagement

Obtaining total engagement of every teacher is a campus principal’s dream.  “Teacher of the Year” awards and “Teacher Recognition Week” fall short of achieving that goal.  Perhaps principals should borrow from Mark Toth’s webinar Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Employee Engagement (summarized in “The Top 10 Reasons That Your Employees Really Quit,” TLNT: June 21, 2012).

Mark Toth delineates the six E’s of engagement:  envision, empathize, enhance, empower, encourage, and evaluate.  Although Toth is not pointing specifically at public education, his rules of engagement apply.  Teachers do not become comprehensively engaged unless the principal communicates a “bold, clear, and inspirational” campus vision and involves teachers in that mental picture.  The dynamic principal empathizes with teachers, seeking to “understand their motivations and strengths.”  He/she offers meaningful staff development to enhance and update teaching skills.  Often this involves launching teachers into 21st Century technology.  Additionally, the compelling principal empowers teachers” to do meaningful work.”  Empowerment implies trust that the engaged teacher can and will produce desired outcomes.  Empowerment also implies patience and encouragement as the teacher moves from his/her comfort zone.

The final “E” of engagement, “evaluate on a truthful and timely basis,” may be the most difficult for campus principals to apply.  Principals usually conduct a yearly formal classroom observation and a few classroom visits, write comments into a prescribed document, and conduct a hasty post-observation conference with each teacher.   Mandated evaluations frequently fall short of “timely,” maybe even fall short of “truthful.”

In order to implement the six E’s of teacher engagement, the thoughtful principal/leader continually interacts with teachers toward the compelling vision, develops a trusting relationship with each teacher, and encourages teachers toward daily maximum performance.  The principal, of course, models total engagement within the shared vision.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Comprehensive Teacher Engagement

  1. Mary Anne Hipp

    Your accounting of teacher engagement is remarkable. As I read it, I recalled that 20+ years ago, when I was a “baby principal,” empowerment was the way to go and I had no problem with it. Much to my surprise, the teachers didn’t want empowerment. It’s amazing that we are still addressing the importance of shared responsibilities. I lead district accreditation teams around the country now and am starting to see some interesting models for increased teacher engagement and hopefully sustainable practices. It is encouraging to see some of the district efforts to build leadership capacity and enhance teacher engagement.

    • So many facets of public education have improved over the last 20 years (differentiation for learners, easy access of information, data analysis). However, we must continue these improvements and implement more changes. Mary Anne, I would like to hear about the models you are observing.

      • Mary Anne Hipp

        Marilyn, one of the models I have seen recently was a collaborative team model where about 8-10 members from across the district visited a particular school and used an evaluative instrument that had been designed by that district. This was repeated giving different educators opportunities to participate as team members at various schools until all schools were visited. I think the key to the success of this particular model was the way in which the Superintendent had truly embraced and established shared leadership in that district, That enabled teachers to feel that this process really was for their benefit and to focus on student achievement, etc. So rather than fear the process, they really were eager for their school and their classroom to be visited. The findings were shared with administrators who then shared with teachers. The main comment from the teachers we interviewed was that they wanted more feedback. Realize, however, that this was not only the collaborative team visit, but there were great PLC efforts well established so that there was much inner support and trust. Obviously it takes a trusting and collaborative, student-focused culture for teachers to thrive. In essence, it is not so much the models that I see but the culture that permeates a district of schools so that the models can be effective.

  2. So, Mary Anne, teacher engagement and school improvement really begin with a dynamic superintendent capable of creating a culture of trust and support. The superintendent must have sharp insight in order to initiate this shared leadership and make it work.

    • Mary Anne Hipp

      Yes, Marilyn. That is what I have seen in several cases this past year. Amazingly, this is happening even in small, rural districts with new Superintendents. Some leaders seem to just have a sixth sense so to speak. It s very exciting to see such leadership established in a system, for it is far more likely that the suggestions for continuous improvement will lead to positive outcomes.

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