Every October 5, since 1994, UNESCO has celebrated World Teachers’ Day (WTD) to commemorate the anniversary of the signature of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The day is the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, to raise awareness of the challenges facing teachers, and to highlight their role in the achievement of the global education targets.
This year, as WTD revolves around the theme Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future, it will also be an opportunity to address the role of teachers in education systems, and societies in general, as we cope with the COVID-19 crisis and into what inevitably will be new and as yet largely unchartered territory.
Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future
While the topic of leadership has been somewhat neglected amongst the multitude of issues facing the teaching profession in the push towards achieving SDG 4, the issue is not just timely, but critical in our time of pandemic response. The contributions that teachers have made to provide remote learning, support vulnerable populations, re-open schools, and ensure that learning gaps in the curriculum are being mitigated are outstanding.
The theme for this year’s WTD also considers the role of teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession.
The COVID-19 crisis created a unique situation for teacher leadership, creativity and innovation to be demonstrated. Around the world, teachers worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to ensure that learning could continue.
In Indonesia, for example, a teacher travelled for hours each day to set up small learning groups around his laptop. In most cases, teachers have had to act without much warning and with little time to prepare, being forced to modify or condense the curriculum and adapt lesson plans to carry on with instruction, whether via the internet, mobile phone, television, or radio broadcast.
In many low-income countries, where there is poor or no connectivity to the internet or mobile networks, teachers have prepared take-home packages for their students. The move to online learning has required capacity for innovation and creativity never before attempted in order to keep children engaged and learning.
Some teachers have even posted their lessons online for the benefit of all; others check-in with their students through WhatsApp, while others visit homes to pick up work and bring back revisions and feedback.
Moreover, teachers have formed communities of practice and support groups through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.