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Pandemic shines a light on teachers’ leadership roles worldwide

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to teaching and learning, it has also shone a bright light on the core strength of education worldwide: the leadership, creativity and ingenuity of teachers. That’s why the theme of World Teachers’ Day on 5 October this year was Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”.

To coincide with World Teachers’ Day and explore this theme, the Teacher Task Force organized a series of regional discussions on the key role of leadership in solving problems during the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening the resilience of education systems. Building on the regional meetings in May and June 2020 on distance teaching and the return to school, five discussions were held:

These meetings gave representatives from a wide range of countries an opportunity to highlight the way teachers have shown leadership not only in their teaching but also right across the school and in partnership with parents and the community.

The need to organize and deliver remote learning during lockdowns, for example, drew many ingenious responses from teachers. In Rwanda, teachers wrote scripts for and taught radio lessons. In both Rwanda and Lebanon, teachers taught television lessons.  

Where no technology was available, teachers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo visited pupils door-to-door to deposit and collect school work.

Social media came to the fore in several countries. Teachers in Pakistan started informal WhatsApp classes. In Bhutan, teachers used WeChat, WhatsApp and Telegram Messenger for teaching.

Teachers also demonstrated considerable leadership in their roles as front line workers in the fight against COVID-19, raising general awareness about strict hygiene protocols and ensuring these were respected. In Senegal, teachers took ownership of the design and radio broadcasting of preventive messages against COVID-19. In Bhutan, teachers even repaired fittings and built taps.

School leaders have been instrumental in showing leadership and mentoring other teachers. In Senegal, school leaders helped teachers to produce digital resources, jointly with inspectors and trainers. In Thailand, school leaders encouraged teachers to develop computer programmes for online learning management. In China, school leaders led initiatives emphasizing researching at home, reading, and group study, involving interactions between teachers, parents and students.

Participants in the meetings also explained how school leaders and teachers were working with communities and parents to ensure the continuation of remote teaching and learning, and provide a safe and healthy learning environment.

In the Gambia, for example, community members were trained along with teachers and students to provide leadership and help ensure a safe return to school. In the Balata Refugee Camp in Palestine, students are involved in decision-making through a children’s parliament, working in partnership with teachers and parent coordinators.

The meetings developed a set of recommendations to support teacher leadership both during the COVID-19 crisis and in the longer-term to build better school and teacher resilience.  They included:

  • Teachers’ leadership role should be formalized in teacher policies, education sector plans, professional development frameworks and salaries.
  • Teachers should be encouraged, supported and empowered to embrace their leadership roles.
  • Teachers’ leadership roles should be acknowledged by giving them greater professional autonomy.
  • Teachers’ leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic should be acknowledged and rewarded including through incentives and career paths and structures.
  • Holistic support for teachers, with an increased focus on their psychological and socio-emotional well-being, is the key to fostering a leadership mindset.

Read the full report on the Teacher Task Force Regional Meetings to mark World Teachers’ Day, 5 October 2020.