How To Motivate Disengaged Teachers

During a pandemic, it’s understandable that almost everyone’s focus, including educators, is on the health and well-being of friends and family. Post-pandemic, however, I’m noticing a troubling trend: Some educators still suffer from an ambition deficit when it comes to teaching.


For example, the other day, a teacher told me that they had a field trip the previous day and their feet still hurt so they took off from work. In the professional trainings I facilitated lately, I also left early because the teachers felt they were “too tired.” The teachers told me they were leaving; They didn’t ask. What exactly are we in for? Robert Glaser Call it the “Ambition Recession”.

To be fair, there are very valid reasons why some teachers become apathetic and/or leave the profession. I have previously written about some of these reasons in my Work It Daily article “3 reasons to major in teaching“Furthermore, if we want to help students grow and achieve, we need to get teachers back on the school improvement bus. However, this is not just the responsibility of individual teachers. What can school and district administrators do to encourage teachers? Make positive change?

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to an episode of the New Yorker Radio Hour; The theme of that episode was a change. During that episode, the dance choreographer Akram Khan It has been suggested that there are four—in my opinion, interrelated—reasons why people change. Although he talks about reimagining the ballet “Giselle” for the modern stage, I believe his ideas are relevant to those in education charged with inspiring teachers to participate more fully in the teaching profession.

Teachers must change

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The grass is never greener On the other side. Now that many faculty have left teaching roles and taken up opportunities in the private sector (especially in edtech), we can see a boomerang effect. Being a teacher has some financial stability. A teacher may not make as much money as they want but it is stable. Conversely, when one enters the private sector, financial compensation flows chaotically, especially as the threat of recession looms like gray clouds on the horizon. Teachers, like anyone, may be happy to get a job and do more to keep it.

Teachers can change if they are inspired

The teacher smiled at her students

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Traditionally, most teachers are isolated within the four walls of their classrooms. Many still need to find coverage for their classroom adults to take a short bathroom break. How can school leaders make internal examples of good teaching and learning more visible across the faculty? New Beginnings Charter School, Brooklyn, NY, for example, produces a weekly digital staff instruction newsletter that features classroom videos of their teachers using best instructional practices. They are and ITAVAIn Queens, NY, participate Study the lesson and open model classrooms for teacher interviews. Lesson study is not the only way to unite teachers around a common goal; There are many additional ways Make teaching teams effective.

The key here is that managers need to plan in depth; They should develop schedules that release teachers from their classroom chains to allow teachers to visit other classrooms and/or participate in ongoing teacher teams. Inspiration also requires triangulation of teacher development supports. For example, instructional coaches may consider referring to support materials/examples of best practice provided in digital newsletters during ongoing coaching feedback conversations. Help teachers know where they can go for resources to improve their teaching craft, and teachers have multiple ways to get there.

Teachers change when they learn enough

A teacher educates his students about technology

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When I work with Cristo Rey School Network, we are interested in learning how to best develop in-house tutoring programs that better serve students and prevent their dropout due to poor academic performance. One of the most powerful tools we have in replicating a quality tutoring program across the network is the ability to tap into the expertise of one of our schools that already has such a program. Providing a space for all of our school leaders and teachers involved in the tutoring of our students to engage in the issue of practice protocols proved critical to replicating this one school’s tutoring model across multiple school sites. As our school leaders and teachers learn more about what’s already working at home, the enthusiasm to replicate the practices says it’s contagious.

Networked learning can be in- and/or outsourced, as in Cristo Rey’s case above. Canopy ProjectA joint project between Go beyond education And CRPE, for example, has more than 200 member/school organizations interested in building transformative learning environments focused on equity. It aims to do this by collaborating rather than competing in the development of the best school design. How can school leaders involve more teachers in internal and/or external networks? There are models for learning networks.

Teachers change when they receive as much as they can

A teacher makes his students aware of a new concept

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Administrators and/or instructional coaches were asked otherwise Giving enough Do teachers thereby develop competence? I did it written elsewhere How can we say that student learning is central to our work as educators, when in reality, as learning managers, time is devoted to everything except instructional observation and teacher coaching? Therefore, administrators would do well to develop a standing weekly schedule for themselves that emphasizes both informal classroom observations and feedback/coaching sessions with each teacher on staff. Move activity tasks when instructional time is over for the day. Paul Bambrick-Santoio discusses it in great detail in his book Leverage leadership.

Kim Marshall Administrators, during short observations, are advised not to write notes. Instead, day after day, managers can use a one-page staff list to record the day, date and most relevant points from each visit. Later, too, when feedback is given to the observing teacher they can add a checkmark. Also, share anonymized instructional data, in classrooms, with instructional staff. Help teachers understand why certain instructional preferences exist and solicit teacher participation in responding to data.

If you want additional ideas on how to impact student lives without sacrificing your own life and have a life teaching, check out my quick hack teaching courses Here. You can also reach me LinkedIn.

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