The danger of teacher disengagement

The danger of teacher disengagementDownload a printable copy of this article (PDF 456KB)

  • Consider the engagement of your staff in your big plans.
  • Engagement = quality learning opportunities.
  • Leadership is about effective learning relationships.
  • Learning cultures only exist when engagement is self-directed.
  • Develop focus about staff engagement levels in your school.

Teachers are extraordinary. Despite ever-increasing accountabilities, demands on time, unreasonable expectations, media and societal scrutiny and rather average pay – they back up day-in and day-out to live out a deeply held passion for empowering, enhancing and improving the lives of young people. It’s quite noble stuff when you think about it that way.

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
– Albert Einstein

If teachers are viewed statistically as part of the national workforce, where they comprise 3.7%, it is interesting to compare what other employees consider to be positive and impactful practices, and apply these to teaching.Just occasionally, it’s worth checking on whether the principles that other Australian professionals are saying are important to their engagement and wellbeing are just as pertinent to us.

Here are some interesting facts to ponder about employee ENGAGEMENT and why it matters:

  • Organisations with ENGAGED employees outperform those who don’t by 202% (Gallup)
  • Employees rate the following items in relation to positive impact on their ENGAGEMENT (Association for Talent Development, 2008)
  • Frequency of Training and/or Learning Opportunities – 36%
  • Breadth of Training and/or Learning Opportunities – 39%
  • Quality of Training and/or Learning Opportunities – 65%
  • Problems with direct supervisors as a reason for employee DISENGAGEMENT – 49% (Custom Insight, 2012)
  • Organisations using cooperative learning platforms to improve staff ENGAGEMENT gain in this area by 18% year after year. (ThoughtFarmer)
  • DISENGAGEMENT and a feeling of going nowhere is now globally the fastest growing reason for resignation. (Bureau of National Affairs)
  • Staff turnover costs the average organisation around $1 376 per week, per employee. (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

In schools impact is not measured in dollars – but formally in terms of outcomes, and informally in terms of influence and student life trajectory. However, an average company of 500 employees with an average Australian turnover of 10% is losing around $3.6 million per year. What then, are the potential impacts of DISENGAGED employees in schools?

Learning must be viewed as not only the product but also the process in our schools. This applies to students, but most critically to our teachers. Examine this model for staff ENGAGEMENT:

Learning activity Where staff meetings and gatherings are structured opportunities for those present to synthesise information and learn from each other.
Learning relationships Where team and school leaders view their core business as the work they do leveraging personal  relationships for professional and differentiated growth and improvement.
Learning teams Where Teams are mobilised in their work to enact large strategic objectives through self-direction and engage in practice improvement as the vehicle for achievement.
Learning cultures Where creative collaboration, convention challenging and whole school achievement are norms and evident in all opportunities to practice and to discuss practice.

At which stage in this model would you place your staff?

What might be the cost of not moving into the next phase of staff ENGAGEMENT in your school?

Further reading

More articles in the Working with your staff topic

Dropping the ball on staff resilience

When did resilience become something that we associated primarily with younger people? In the rush to identify the lack of resilience in our students, shown through a lack of initiative, a waning ability to cope with adversity and a growing wish to be rescued from any social, physical, emotional or academic difficulty, we have forgotten exactly what resilience is.

Read more

Without a safety net

Leading change from one model of practice to a new model can be challenging, rewarding and fraught with dangers. For example, many school leaders I work with are looking to move from the punitive model of punishment with all of the blame, stagnant results and negativity that comes with it – to the restorative model, where responsibility, action and relationships are the cornerstones.

Read more

Six ways to keep your teachers

Two alarming statistics have made their way into the national education conversation in recent years. We’ve been aware for some time that many jurisdictions are coping with 30-50% of their teachers leaving the profession permanently within the first five years of service. Alarming as this is, we’ve taken some comfort in the apparent quarantining of that problem to young or inexperienced teachers.

More recently, we’ve been made aware that 20% of ALL teachers have seriously contemplated resignation, not just from their schools, but from their teaching careers in the last term. This damning statistic is a reflection on all of us and should impel us to action rather than blame.

Read more

Mixing oil and water

I speak with a lot of principals and most are immensely proud of their schools. School tours with them are  always a joy. Pride in the achievements around the school exudes from both their words and their manner  as they point to samples of student learning on display and introduce me to teachers described as guns and rock stars.

Read more