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March 1, 2022
Vol. 79
No. 6

Research Alert / What Kind of Leader Do Teachers Need in a Crisis?

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    Leadership
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    Credit: GOODSTUDIO / SHUTTERSTOCK
      With teacher morale in the spotlight as schools enter the third year of the pandemic, what can research tell us about the kind of leadership style and actions that best support educators during a crisis? To find out, two South African researchers, Siphokazi Kwatubana and Vivian Molaodi, did a literature review of 10 studies focused on teacher well-being during the pandemic to see if patterns emerged on helpful leadership characteristics.
      The researchers looked at what the studies showed about teachers' work-related well-being (positive evaluations of and healthy functioning in the work environment) and what the leadership in their schools was like. They counted as "leaders" principals, assistant principals, heads of department, and senior teachers.
      The report discusses how the pandemic and quick switch to remote learning torpedoed teacher morale and well-being around the world. The authors describe the particular challenges faced by some South African schools that didn't have access to enough personal protective equipment and even, in some situations, reliable water for washing hands.
      In studying the intersection between teacher well-being and leadership styles, the researchers' review revealed that the most constructive approaches for leading educators through this crisis were distributed leadership and showing compassion and empathy as a leader. "School leaders should be willing to delegate authority, capitalize on expertise in the school, and create infrastructure to employ the leadership of … teachers," the report notes.
      Leaders also need to have—and show—caring. Kwatubana and Molaodi explain:
      Times of crisis call for tough decisions; however, compassion can be a valuable tool for mitigating anxiety and ensuring that the team stays on track. All strategies and actions to teach during and after lockdown will fall short if not accompanied by empathy.
      One key action the review found for leaders, which reflects both types of recommended leadership, is to keep teachers working in teams. "Teams are essential," the report notes. "School leaders must create a platform for teams to flourish."
      References

      Kwatubana, S., & Molaodi, V. (2021, July 19). Leadership styles that would enable school leaders to support the wellbeing of teachers during COVID-19 [paper]. Annual International Conference of the Bulgarian Comparative Education Society, Sofia, Bulgaria.

      Naomi Thiers is the managing editor of Educational Leadership.

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