Educational leadership is the need of the hour. To manage school systems effectively, more and more schools are creating leadership oriented management roles or inculcating leadership programs, to combat with school issues. The aim is to bring direction and control in the system, in sync with the school’s value system.
While a lot of issues need to be addressed by the educators and school management system, the core issue of high teacher attrition rate continues to bother the most, especially in a country like India.
An educator cum researcher Richard Ingersoll extrapolated that between 40-50% of teachers left the classroom within first five years. The primary reason being the very assumed definition of teaching, which says that the profession was meant as this temporary line of work for women before they got their real job, which was raising families.
Perhaps the only industry, which witnesses 4% higher employee turnover than any other, is the current school education sector. Yes, the more looked up to role of a teacher, is far from being elite and sought after, at least that’s what the statistics state. The high attrition rate of teachers in the education sector, especially in schools is still an ongoing battle for the education system.
A varied list of reasons, ranging from intangible issues like lack of respect, lack of motivation to the more tangible ones like pay and excess workload, are elements governing the high teacher turnover rate. Some teachers also consider the job to be a much dis empowered line of work because they have very little say in the matters of school. However, some also quoted “personal reasons” like individual stress levels and work-life balance struggles. The latter can be understood as their role demands a very high expectation out of them and they are likely to be held accountable for everything.
Going by the school mission and vision, coupled with the demanding job of raising all-rounder kids takes an emotional toll on today’s teachers. They pour out their emotional energy along with physical energy into their work, which breeds quick exhaustion. However, that’s not all. The frustration goes uphill if the energy doesn’t see the desired effects quickly or basically if they are in low-performing schools. In short, the teachers often feel like hardworking martyrs for a hopeless cause.
So how do the school systems ensure that the attrition rate gets controlled, if not necessarily reduced? This is where the need of educational leadership or rather instructional leadership comes into picture.
Usually in schools, a principal is supposed to carry out the leadership role, guiding the school to better teaching and learning. The principal not just shapes a vision of academic success for all students or create a climate hospitable to education, but cultivates leadership in others as well. He/she improves school leadership by efficiently managing data, processes and not to mention, the manpower or the people.
Let us quickly and briefly elaborate the points.
- Creating the vision of academic success-: Getting a bigger picture or the final goal always helps in further clarifying the process to achieve it. Hence, committing to high standards sets the functions in order. Right from focusing on the number of admissions, emphasis on low performing students, and low skilled employment to handling dropouts, the categorical segregation of issues is better.
- Creating a climate conducive to learning-: Leadership oriented schools always put forth learning right at the center of their activities. Whether it’s the adults or children, learning remains the core exercise for holistic growth. Such schools are characterized by basics like safety, organized classrooms, orderliness, and intangible assets like supportive and responsive classrooms. To top it all, a further sense of belonging or community feeling within the teaching faculty is also important as that percolates down to the student fraternity, adding to a sense of security. The latter is believed to ensure an effective and transparent communication channel, which removes “teacher pessimism” as well.
- Cultivating leadership in others:-Researches have proved that principals, who scored high in the eyes of teachers, for creating a strong climate for instructional transparency, were the right kind of leaders. They understand the need to depend on others to accomplish the institution’s common purpose and therefore, encourage the development of leadership skill. This gives a strong fillip to the teaching faculty. In fact, the more the principals are willing to spur leadership roles in and around, the better the schools perform.
- Focusing on improving instruction:-Working constantly to improve the quality of instruction is the key behind getting good work done. It sets a clear definition of the job demanded, helps sort issues like teacher isolation and fragmented effort and directly allows to connect with teachers and their classrooms. This also works in favor as the principals or the people with authority, get to address manpower issues through research based strategies for improving teaching and learning.
- Managing people, data and processes:-Effective use of resources, both tangible and intangible holds the secret to success. Research as per VAL-ED (Vanderbilt assessment of leadership in education is a tool to assess principal performance, developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University) states the key steps for effective leadership are planning, implementing, supporting, advocating, communicating and monitoring. The skill to be able to view data for not just pinpointing, but for understanding the nature and cause of problems, helps to promote efficient work environment.
It is believed that an economy of a nation strongly depends on an educated population. Therefore, the government is constantly seeking out ways to narrow the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged students. In a school, this effort starts with a principal and the management system.
Therefore, educational leadership in schools will not just help to fulfill the bigger picture of a successful school or economy, but also address the much neglected aspect of teacher retention. Schools that do reasonably well, in terms of responding to student behavioral issues and appreciating the voice of teachers, have lesser issues of teacher retention.
Respected, well paid teaching jobs will never witness crisis moments, as long as the underlying issues are tackled sensibly. Teachers are the true catalysts for change, so improving the quality of teaching job or the attractiveness of teaching as a profession, will definitely improve the quality of teaching in the long run. And if this happens, the schools would attract good people, who would consider their job seriously and make it worth it.