In general, whatever shifts are taking place on the planet irrespective of contexts and epochs, teachers stay at the heart of the teaching-learning environment.
Recently, evidence from across educational institutions revealed that authorities have asked for reducing teachers' teaching roles to reinforce facilitating actions with a view to engaging pupils to varied activities that augment learning further by ensuring "leaving no one behind."
This type of overturning requires teachers to act as innovators to try and confirm context-based methods for teaching-learning as "one size does not fit all".
The aforementioned development also urges teachers to be leaders, in addition to their perpetual activities.
The noise on teachers' leadership upsurges further in this unprecedented period having all educational institutions closed for sine die with the presence of Covid-19 pandemic worldwide and is expected to reshape the vision of the upcoming days for teaching-learning.
These details assisted Unesco to formulate the theme of the World Teachers' Day of 2020 as, "Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future." Since 1994, around 100 countries have been celebrating The World Teachers' Day on October 5 for upholding teachers' rights for further professional development, better service, congenial environment and defining responsibilities.
One may ask, what exactly is the teacher leadership and how does it offer benefits?
Teacher leadership involves assuming an informal position by a competent teacher to backstop his/her colleagues through influencing and extending suggestions to bring transformation in a system for students' improved leaning.
To be exhaustive, leadership roles encourage teachers to be active in and beyond the classroom to manage teaching, learning, resource allocation, learning problems, insufficient involvement, poor motivation, school culture and functioning of schools.
As changemakers, teacher leaders gain importance because they are easily trusted and accepted by colleagues to receive instructions for professional development.
It has been revealed that educational institutions can scale-up their performance when teachers act together for continuous improvement and are given true responsibilities. It has also been confirmed that such successful actions enhance students' grades, knowledge, skills, and sophisticate their attitudes.
As Covid-19 slammed the door of education, both teachers and students become befuddled witnessing supernova of incontrovertible disorders with disruption of schooling. With gradual worsening of the situation and increasing number of inoperative days, the actors in education experienced the unforeseen situation and felt like doing something innovative to reduce the burnt.
As per it goes that the wicked situation is of two-faced as displayed by Chinese symbol for "crisis"—while one side browbeats through unwanted consequents, the other involves with opening fresh opportunities for reshaping the future.
This scope though may increase workloads of already burdened teaches, hitherto can be effective to rescue the bogged down academic events to keep up the pace for achieving the MDG4 by 2030 for quality education.
The UNESCO predicted 1.6 billion students stuck at home around the globe and trapping of them in isolation possesses the potential of being suffered from serious mental health hazards.
Whatsoever, the teacher leaders are trying their best to keep the gap of learning low through already mentioned online classes and other efforts such as communicating with guardians and communities, supplying digital devices, foods and financial backstopping, as well as working as connectors between government and students.
To this end, bringing back the learners under the aegis of teaching-learning become imperative and in response, teachers around the world come up with new strategies by reorganising and redefining learning as a "twilight," distant and screen-based activities standing on numerous online platforms, amongst them Zoom, Google Meet, MS Team become popular.
Nevertheless, some of these platforms are accused of being insecure and the others need an institutional arrangement for extensive use.
Besides, that stands tall as the crux of the matter amidst all is not the uniformity in using a singular platform, but the threatening issue of a stark digital divide between developed and developing countries and amongst the classes of the population within counties.
A report of the International Telecommunication Union reaffirms the claim declaring that about 360 million students do not have internet access and others do not possess digital devices. Notably, the digital divide amongst teachers remains less discussed but needs grave attention.
More deterioration will be observed in future with a possible increase of digital gap with a parallel intensification of extreme poverty as the World Bank predicted that by the end of this year another 49 million people are going to feel the scourge of extreme poverty that hurts the achievement of the SDGs.
Then those who are fighting against poverty to secure foods and medicines may fail to receive any benefit of online education and for this, to come up with a solution may be increased government and NGOs expenditure for digital resources will be the best alternative.
In a similar extent, in Bangladesh, many teachers are not accustomed to and trained on distant learning systems. To mitigate such lacking, some teacher leaders, mostly form fresh blood, have offered free online tutorials across online platforms—YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and alike. In such progress, some instructional leaders, for example, the principal of Chandpur Government College has established studios, even before the direction from the centre, in each department to conduct online classes live.
What is more, there observed a boost of online classes from informal sections, for example, 10-minute school, Dikkha, Repto Education Center, eShikhon, Educarnival and some other individuals shine also.
The question remains – what extent do the initiatives stay effective? In sorting the answer, though evidence are few, yet some observation revealed that online academic activities have reached to students to some extent.
However, many remain out of reach due to high digital discrimination in the Southern World and, in this respect, Bangladesh is no exception. Considering this, the government has initiated to broadcast classes for elementary and secondary level on television, and the tertiary level has gone online.
However, opinions of the guardians reveal that teachers are doing little to match the demands and reversely, teachers are of opinion that they have been doing much for less. For teachers, online classes require extra time, tolerating relentless pressure and sleepless nights for flawless presentation bearing the risk of dropping down from a position of a hero to zero with silly mistakes being the cynosure of all eyes.
Moreover, teachers are missing informal moments—now vanished rapidly—of school days, which assist them to exercise leadership to reenergize their efforts. Hence, a struggle is being taken place for teachers in shifting their methods of instructions with virtually no professional development training.
Similarly, guardians are handling troubles while managing their children during educating-at-home and students are facing plights to continue concentration with having once denied devices in hand and opportunity to play games.
Moreover, distant learning is just another medium of accommodation, but pedagogical styles may need to be culled and redesigned. Overall, teachers or teacher leaders are little ready to face such situation as everyone in the society, one way or the other, are in stressed encountering the situation with no perfect solutions. It is a perfect squall with imperfect solutions.
Taking everything into consideration, it can be said that bad time begets leaders, and nothing is bigger than this hard time for flourishment of leadership. In this unprecedented time, being hesitant what to do, teachers are doing on trial and error basis with no prior instances.
Nevertheless, with unpredictability and uncertainty in coming days of 'new normal' teacher leaders need to stand with courage, confidence, unshakable belief, care and love for pupils, continuous reassessment of their efforts.
For all of these, teachers need to be supported with training and financial resources for retooling education delivery, their efforts necessitate acknowledged and views require to be heard as per the targets 4c of the SDGs; and that will surely develop a new category of leadership may be distributive in form but effective to safeguard the learning of young people.
In fine, continuous tailor-made care right now and in future is expected to accelerate the mission of teachers for leading in crisis with resilience and offer refined thoughts on education and teaching profession for attaining the best from the SDGs and the fourth industrial revolution.
Mohammad Jahangir Hossain Mojumder, PhD is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science, Chowmuhani Government S. A. College, Noakhali, Bangladesh and Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD is a Professor of the Department of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.