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Learning is a rewarding experience. But only when teaching is, too. It’s time to engage, recognize and reward our teacher leaders so that they can transfer the spark forward - to the leaders of tomorrow.

“The only superhero Marvel’s Avenger team is missing is in a classroom. Building more superheroes.”

Long before Albert Einstein changed science with his theory of relativity, he was transforming young minds. After all, he started his career as a teacher in high school.

Long before Chanakya helped Chandragupta Maurya lay the foundation of one of India’s grandest empires, one that united most of South Asia, he was busy laying foundations between the ears. As a professor at Takshila University, he taught political science and economics.

Long before Aristotle’s ahead-of-its-time perspectives were making lasting contributions to physics, ethics, and zoology, he contributed to building one of the world’s most outstanding leaders as the private tutor of Alexander the Great.

1. Teachers Do Much More Than Just Teach

Sometime in the 1990s, India-born multi-industry conglomerate Tata Steel ran an iconic TV commercial that narrated the various philanthropic activities of the organization. There wasn’t a single mention of the company’s core business except in the final tagline, which went: “We also make steel.” It reminds one of the many roles teachers play in our lives.

Teachers help us dream bigger. They build the skills that help us achieve them and remove the barriers of prejudice so that our impact touches more lives. They also add the purpose that ensures our actions are meaningful and instill the values that make our journey memorable. Lest we forget, they also teach.

2. Agents of Change, Shaping Agents of Change.

Many pieces complete the complex jigsaw of society’s progress – policy, technology, per capita income, cultural forces, and media (including social media). Amongst them, education remains the most fundamental. It cradles and nurtures change-makers and trailblazers from day one, molding the minds that go on to mold society. After all, every journey starts in kindergarten, doesn’t it?

Every leader blossoms (overtly or covertly) during the school and college years. This makes the school, human evolution’s most potent instrument. And within the school environment – which comprises several elements – it is the teacher who squarely and unequivocally plays the role of a chief orchestra conductor.

Teachers: The Original Influencers

➼ Research shows that teachers play the most critical role in student achievement among all learning and school-related factors.

➼ According to Economist Eric Hanushek, a child taught by a good teacher gains 1.5 grade-level equivalents, while a child taught by a not-so-good teacher only gets half an academic year’s worth.

➼ Another finding suggests that the right kindergarten teacher can measurably influence a student’s career journey and enhance lifetime earnings by about $320,000.

➼ Research suggests that simply having an effective kindergarten teacher can measurably increase one’s chances of completing college, which in turn can boost lifetime earnings by about $320,000.

➼ In a study conducted by Cornerstone On Demand, 81% of respondents agreeing that faculty and staff have a significant impact on student success.
Machines Teach Us To Count. Teachers Teach What Counts.

Time to Spot, Recognize and Reward a Miracle Called Teaching.

Tech-like AI is exactly what it sounds like: Intelligent but artificial. And no matter how good the backend codes are, they cannot simulate the intuition, interaction and inspiration a ‘real teacher’ brings to the table (or desk, as the case may be).

Attitudes and approaches like resolving conflict, building connections, fostering inclusivity, practicing restraint, and nurturing purpose are quintessentially human experiences and squarely dependent on physical intervention. For instance, they cannot be automated, transmitted, or picked up over the digital screen in a remote location with a slow wi-fi connection.

It’s important to remember that a lot of things that are integral and vital to personality growth can only be learned through observation, experimentation, and play (especially during the formative years), with the teacher occupying the central role of the referee and toggling between active participant and passive mentor.

The Bad News First:

Teachers are Bunking Class – More Frequently than Ever

 Teacher Retention

The #NewNormal has turned the job of the teacher more demanding than ever. For many, the joy of teaching – the reason many of them entered the profession in the first place – is being systematically sucked out from the daily ritual due to jam-packed schedules and rising workloads – a substantial part of which isn’t even related to teaching, strictly speaking.

According to the McKinsey Global Teacher and Student Survey conducted in 2017, teachers are working an average of 50 hours a week – an increase of 3% 3 percent over the past five years. Be it planning lessons, checking papers, or managing administrative chores; teachers are feeling burnt out.
Teacher Memes
Source: boredpanda

And more and more are responding by walking out of the classroom (or logging out of the screen). Not surprisingly, teacher turnover in the US is at a deeply concerning 16%, while in the UK, a staggering 81% of them are actively considering alternative livelihoods.

Emerging practices and technologies aren’t helping the cause, either. So while on the one hand, advances in AI (artificial intelligence) and robot tech are threatening to replace the human teacher at some point, on the other, trends like Edu-tech, work from home device and MOOC (free online courses) are turning self-learning into a viable alternative, teasing and taunting the role of the teacher.

And Now, The Good News

Teachers Won't Drop Out Of School (AnyTime Soon, That Is).

School teachers are expected to grow by 5 to 24 % in the USA between 2016 and 2030. The growth is slated to be over 100% for countries like India and China. Research also suggests that technology will augment the efficiency of teachers instead of replacing them.

How Can We Make Teachers Shine In Class Again? Two Words. Engage and Reward.

How can we expect a disengaged professor to create engaged leaders? The physician must first heal themself. The industry must internalize its lessons. The time is ripe for bringing back the magic of teaching into teaching. The time is here to encourage, groom, and incentivize the immense potential of faculty and staff across universities, schools, and points of learning.

Teacher disengagement, absenteeism & attrition is costly

  • Without university employees who go above and beyond, a Gallup study found that students are less likely to be engaged in education and prepared for life.
  • According to Gallup, “Highly engaged faculty and staff members can make the difference between students who thrive and ones who fail to grow.”
  • Graduates are 1.4 more likely to be better equipped in well-being skills if they had a mentor who took a personal interest in their development.
  • As per estimates, 50% of universities and colleges in the U.S. are likely to face bankruptcy in the coming decades. The only way to turn that tide is to build a cadre of dynamic teacher employees who can attract students back.
  • Harvard Business School’s professor Clayton Christensen – in his In his research - found that most of the alumni who gave generous donations to their alma maters really wanted to recognize the impact of faculty members who had influenced them deeply.
  • Teacher employees who feel a sense of belonging to their workplace play the lead role in creating a positive culture and attracting top talent via powerful employer branding. The reverse is equally true: Mentors who are actively disengaged become agents of toxicity who undermine the work of peers, spread disenfranchisement and destroy morale.

UP, Is The Only Way From Here

Things are currently at the bottom of the barrel. The bright side is that things can only improve. Numbers reveal how levels of employee engagement in education are amongst the lowest in any sector.

  • According to Cornerstone and Ellucian’s 2016 Employee Engagement and Retention in Higher Education survey, 39% of colleges and universities do not engage, recognize or reward their employees as much as they should.
  • Nearly half the respondents said employee engagement is neither tracked nor measured at their institutions. That roughly maps to 47% of institutions.
  • A Gallup study squarely confirms that only 31% of teachers in the US are engaged at work – leaving over two-thirds of this vital section of the demographic uninvolved and indifferent.
  • In a study, only 4 in 10 professors confessed that someone has enquired after their professional progress in the past year.
  • Of them, 13% are actively disengaged at work.

Engaging Teachers: A Rewarding Experience From Every Angle

Learning organizations and institutions are grappling with increasing regulations, funding challenges, talent management problems, student disenfranchisement bottlenecks, and growing public demand for accountability. Organizations can potentially solve the lion’s share of this by ensuring that professors, mentors, and teachers bring their best selves to work daily.

Here’s how education leaders and institutions can engage and provide rewards for great teachers:

Ways To Engage Teachers

1. Redistribute The Clock

Take teachers out of administration, evaluation, and preparation duties, most of which can be done commendably well via tech intervention and automation. Put teachers back where they belong: Active engagement, a direct coaching, and behavioral and skill development.

2. Reimagine The Role

With disruptions like blended learning, flipped classrooms (Self-Paced learning supplemented by teacher support), and hybrid models opening up new possibilities, it’s time to figure out how to utilize a teacher’s talents more creatively. The teachers can now engage with the learning cycle through new ‘entry points’. Findings tell us that tech alone can’t work miracles. Students using tablets, laptops, and e-readers in the classroom have been performing worse than counterparts who are not. So while the teacher must continue to provide the missing ‘personal touch’, the role must be reinvented: From hand-holder and trainer to advisor and guide.

The focus must shift to building precious, one-on-one emotional bridges with student’s relationships and nurture ‘social qualities’ and ‘soft skills’ like inclusivity, patience, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. It is also vital that mentors acclimatize students with the tools, processes, and mindsets required to engage with the #newnormal of education and groom learners for the #futureofwork. These traits are not just crucial for 21st-century jobs but are particularly beneficial for low-income families and countries. A mix of [ automation + human ] can thus go a considerable way in even-ing out educational inequalities arising from social or economic variance.

Finally, reimagining the role also means that education leaders, administrators, and entrepreneurs must empower teachers with greater freedom in the classroom and a bigger say at the boardroom – actively soliciting ideas and recommendations from teachers in areas like curriculum planning, technology adoption, and the implementation of pilots and roll-outs.

3. Leverage Tribe Synergy

Re-aligning the clock and calendar should also free up time for teachers to bond and brainstorm with peers and colleagues. Collaboration and co-creation tap into dormant synergies and can engineer innovative pedagogical practices and student-friendly learning eco-systems, which have consistently delivered results (in the form of better student outcomes) in high-performing school systems. But the job doesn’t end there.

Teachers and their organizations must go beyond their limited peer systems and share learnings - of what’s working and what isn’t – with the broader ecosystem via the world wide web. Democratizing insights prevent reinvention of the wheel, acts a lifeline for schools, colleges, and educational institutions strapped for funds (and therefore cannot conduct experiments on their own), and take the sector forward as a whole.

4. Keep Learning

Teachers must ‘go back to school’ every single day, and the pun is intended. They must remain students at heart, utilizing every opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills and get progressively better at what they do. The onus here is equally on policy-makers, leaders of schools & universities, and brands & companies (that build teaching tools & tech) to invest in an environment that continuously supports, inspires, and educates the educator.

‍Top performing schools realize that, and that’s precisely what they do.

5. Reset The Setup

Education and learning designers must create an enabling and empowering environment for teachers addresses areas like:

  • Strategic recruitment that identifies the right talent
  • Mapping the right roles to the right aptitude
  • Building upon the teacher’s strengths and capabilities

Championing a culture that:

  • Spots attachment
  • Empowers performance
  • Expresses gratitude
  • Incentivizes effort
  • Hails achievement.

How to Reward Teachers?

You may not be able to grade a teacher with an A+ or C- report card, but you can reward their commitment, recognize their passion and catalyze their impact with a pat on the back. Or more tangibly, by encouraging them handsomely at every step – be it publicly or privately – through creatively mapped cash and non-cash prizes.

The mandate for leaders and decision-makers, therefore, includes - amongst other things - establishing an environment of meritocracy featuring balanced monitoring and unbiased evaluation while institutionalizing a culture of rewards and incentives that addresses both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations of teachers, instructors, guides, coaches and mentors – across the role, stream, and hierarchy.

Pedagogy has Always been a Rewarding Profession.

But Nothing Stops You From Adding To The Experience, Does It? After all teachers do love rewards.

Teachers Love Rewards

Gamify everyday targets by co-creating fun rules, tracking progress on leader-boards, Also rewards and incentives for teachers with Xoxoday- the gold standard in rewards and experience automation.

When it comes to incentivizing teachers, instructors, and gurus, Xoxoday ticks each of the Big 5 Zones.

1. Desirability

Trending and desirable incentives that feature on top of their Wish-Lists.

2. Customization

Match the incentive to the nature of the achievement, the spirit of the occasion, and the personality of the one who is rewarded.

3. Speed

Cut out delays clinically identifying good behavior from the complex interplay of everyday workflows and incentivizing on-the-spot.

4. Convenience

Xoxoday can easily integrate with organizational processes and feedback architectures. And it can be deployed from Day One over a Plug-and-Play format.

5. Choice

Give your teacher rockstars the privilege to choose from Xoxoday's vast global catalog of perks, discounts, vouchers, branded currencies, merchandize, benefits, gifts, and experiences – all of which are redeemable in any country across the globe.

There's More To Xoxoday

Apart from breezy customization and deep personalization, Xoxoday’s omnichannel nature makes it compatible with any delivery medium your systems are comfortable with - such as On-Screen, SMS, Email, Whatsapp, QR Codes, Notifications, and several others.

Finally, Xoxoday’s data-rich reports and analytics ensure never-before visibility and insights into nearly every aspect of pedagogy so that you can keep optimizing and improving it.

Manoj Agarwal

Manoj Agarwal

Manoj Agarwal is the Co-Founder and CPO at Xoxoday. He is an MBA from IIM Kozhikode comes with 14 years of experience in building companies, technology, product, marketing, & business excellence.