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Teachers: The Secret Sauce of Every Great School

Written by Alvin Hew
SIS Group of Schools, Board Director

Great schools retain their teachers

With many schools going to distance learning amidst Covid-19, the quality of teachers has never become more apparent.

If teaching was already complicated pre-Covid-19, it has become even more so today. My mother was a teacher, so it gave me first-hand knowledge of demands required of teachers. I could see that it demanded a broad knowledge of subject matter, curriculum, and standards. It required not just enthusiasm, a caring attitude, and a love of learning but also a knowledge of discipline and classroom management techniques. Great teachers like my mom desired to make a difference in the lives of young people. It’s no wonder that when she passed away a few years ago, many of her students who are now highly successful and respected individuals in their own right showed up to pay their last respects.

And with classes going online, teachers today need to be also technologically savvy. With all these qualities required, it’s no wonder that it’s hard to find great teachers.

Yet, one thing is for sure: great teachers can make an impact be it on students or in the business world. Sydney Finkelstein – a faculty director at the prestigious Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and a specialist in business leadership and strategy – wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2018 that “The Best Leaders Are Great Teachers Professor Finkelstein spent 10 years studying business leaders and he found that the one thing that set apart world class leaders from others “was the extent to which these star managers emphasize ongoing, intensive one-on-one tutoring of their direct reports, either in person or virtually, in the course of daily work.” Do you teachers do that? He said exceptional leaders were teachers through and through and when they embrace the role of teacher, “you build loyalty, turbocharge your team’s development, and drive superior business performance”. He ends by saying “Teaching is not merely an “extra” for good managers; it’s an integral responsibility. If you’re not teaching, you’re not really leading.” In fact, great teachers are the best leaders.

At SIS we work hard not just to find great teachers, but we work hard to retain them. We look for teachers who are set high expectations for students, have clear objectives for their classes, are well prepared and organized, engage students meaningfully to drive curiosity to learn, form relationships and show they care about students, are masters of their subject matter and communicate frequently with parents to form the famous student-parent-teacher triangle.

At SIS we make sure they are well taken care of. During this Covid-19 pandemic, we have increased the level of care extended. This includes paying for internet coverage of teachers from their home and online internet services key to delivering distance learning, paying extra allowances for many of our teachers who opt not to return to their home country this holiday, and providing a new digital platform for on-going Professional Development (PD) and continued training. These are among many of the things we are doing to retain our teachers.

At SIS, I am glad to say our teachers are committed to staying with us. We are extremely pleased with this level of commitment. While teachers at other international schools in Indonesia have mostly left when Covid-19 hit our shores or will leave when school comes to an end, we retain most if not all of our teachers.

This augurs well for us when school restarts at the end of July.