One of the most prevalent themes which has emerged in education throughout this era is that of engagement.  It is widely recognized that if we want our students to maximize their learning, then we need to effectively engage them in the process.  This in turn creates meaningful, exciting and intense learning experiences.  All that being said, there is another component to engagement which also has a dramatic impact on learning, and is not discussed nearly as much.  I would contend that teacher engagement is likewise critically important to student learning and success.  In fact, studies have shown over and over again that conditions which allow teachers to be engaged and teach at their best, are also the same factors which encouraged students to learn at their best. 

(1)  The two are utterly intertwined.  Considering this, it becomes imperative that teachers are effectively engaged in their teaching and learning.  The question which then arises is how can we ensure this?  I believe there are a number of key factors which when present and applied effectively engage and motivate teachers.
Supportive Leadership:    When people lack autonomy and the ability to make decisions…they begin to lose motivation and engagement.  Teachers respond and are engaged when they are valued and their professional judgement is supported.  In such situations teachers are given more autonomy with decision making by Principals who then build upon this capacity and facilitate growth in all staff members. (2) This is not a “top down” vision, it is more of a collaborative team approach, all working together for the best interests of students.  There may be instances where this approach will be taken advantage of, but in my personal experience such instances are few and far between.  Nevertheless, if this does happen, a supportive Principal will address any such behaviour quickly and thoroughly as it will otherwise threaten the positivity and engagment which has been built with the rest of the staff.  A supportive leader who encourages risk taking, professional judgement and critical thinking can go a long way in building and helping to sustain teacher engagement.
More Time: For most teachers I know, if you asked them what they need the most to do a great job, they would say time.    There are numerous demands made on a teacher’s time each and every day.  From planning lessons and units, meeting in professional learning teams, marking student work, performing administrative tasks, running extra-curricular clubs, meeting with parents and of course…teaching!  The demands really are endless. Also, since the vast majority of a teacher’s day is spent with the children (which is their favorite part of the job I may add), most of the other tasks have to be done during personal time.  The reality of the job is that everyday is different and the expectations are huge.  Despite the best of intentions, there just does not seem to ever be enough time to tackle that “to do” list and not only is this challenging, but it is frustrating and demoralizing at the same time.  By providing more time for teachers they begin to feel more valued and engaged in the process.  One way this can be accomplished is for the supportive principal to “filter” what comes down to teacher in the way of paperwork or those ever changing initiatives of the day.  One thing I do personally is complete these tasks for teachers.  My philosophy for doing that is that it means more time is then actually spent between teachers and students.  In turn I am able to see both become engaged to a level which is not attainable when a teacher has to spend so much time doing “busy” paperwork.
Relationships with Students  There is little doubt that building relationships with students is the most engaging part of the teaching profession by far.  There is an extremely strong bond which exists between teachers and their students.  This often lasts well beyond the years when the students are in the teacher’s classroom.  In fact, former students will frequently visit many years later when they have become doctors, nurses or even teachers themselves!  To see their students develop and grow into contributing members of society, and to realize that they played a huge part of this, is the most powerful and motivating teacher engagement factor which exists.
Effective teacher engagement is critical for student success and therefore must be nurtured and encouraged.  I believe the aforementioned factors do exactly this.  Of course there are other methods to promote teacher engagement, such as collaboration, professional development and the recognition of accomplishments.  However, these are all covered through supportive leadership and the provision of more time.  Overall these 3 top factors cover an extensive area and if properly created will permeate into the entire culture and climate of a school.  This is what true teacher engagement is all about.

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