Piloting a Sector-wide Workshop for Improved Teacher Wellbeing in Palestine
“I am from Azzoun town near Qalqilya in Palestine’s West Bank. I studied Industrial Engineering and graduated from Al Najah National University. I work at Al Ramadine School, which is one of the most marginalized schools in the Qalqilya Directorate. My school is located in the Arab Al Ramadine and Al Janoubi Bedouin communities, behind the segregation wall and within Israeli military checkpoints.
Why a workshop on teacher wellbeing?
In Palestine, myriad risk-factors stand in the way of a quality work environment where teachers can fulfill their professional aspirations and realize the quality of teaching and learning that their learners deserve.
Yet as the INEE Teacher Wellbeing Gap Analysis reports, a vast majority of the resources and interventions designed to support teacher wellbeing in emergency settings do not adequately account for the unique social, cultural, and linguistic needs of teachers in local contexts. This calls for the need to contextualize the knowledge and practices of teacher wellbeing.
Thus, on August 23rd and 24th, 2022, over 40 representatives from government, United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and schools gathered in Ramallah, Palestine, for a first-of-its-kind workshop on “Teacher Wellbeing in Emergency Settings”, co-facilitated by the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and generously funded by Education Cannot Wait.
Workshop Design: Building a Safe Space for Meaningful Engagement
Our workshop aimed to create the opportunity for participants to share experiences and to collaborate on solutions for the improvement of teacher wellbeing in Palestine. For this to happen, the workshop needed to be a space where participants could express their concerns in a safe and secure way, free from judgment or risk to their careers. We adopted an interactive facilitation approach using a diverse range of learning activities to build relationships and unfold new learning that prioritized participant knowledge, voice, and leadership.
As the workshop convened diverse stakeholders from the education system to work on a previously under-explored topic , a pressing challenge was how to define a shared concept of teacher wellbeing for the context of Palestine. Therefore, the first part of the workshop explored Palestinian and global understandings of teacher wellbeing.
Understandably, participants raised the issue of inadequate financial compensation as a cause of distress and a contributor to poor teacher wellbeing; especially when teachers struggle to support their own families’ housing, nutrition, health, and education needs. Echoing the sentiments of teachers in other protracted crises, Palestinian teachers agreed that championing teachers’ work without fair compensation amounts to little more than lip service.
Similar to Abeer’s story narrated earlier, the participants noted several other factors that compound the distress of poor compensation, including: the daily stress of having to travel through military checkpoints, the ever-present threat of school demolitions, and the reality that many of their learners’ contend with unpredictable personal safety each day, and many other risk-factors that are part and parcel of life under military occupation.
Participants acknowledged the many strengths of the teachers and the invaluable work they do for Palestinian learners. But they also noted that given the many challenges and threats that teaching presents in this region, teachers’ work in Palestine is a wellbeing risk in and of itself.
These wide-ranging discussions, rife with raw and recent experiences, provided a local knowledge-base that we could then organize within a framework of principles, domains, and standards for teacher wellbeing, as presented in the recently published INEE Guidance Note on Teacher Wellbeing in Emergency Settings.
Contextualization in Practice: The Teacher Wellbeing Framework
The Teacher Wellbeing Framework is designed to inform a common, coherent, and cohesive approach for planning for teacher wellbeing needs in emergency settings at local and global levels.
Aligned with the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, this framework consists of three principles, five domains, and nineteen standards. The following questions and accompanying activities were designed to contextualize the principles, domains, and standards for the context of Palestine:
- describe which principles and domains of the Guidance Note on Teacher Wellbeing applied to their own work roles and realities;
- discuss how they would incorporate or strengthen teacher wellbeing within their own organization’s scope of work; and
- contribute to a specific, time bound, and practice oriented “Teacher Wellbeing Action Plan for Palestine”
Participants were pre-arranged into groups corresponding to the five domains of the INEE MS, with each group comprising of different levels of the education system. With the aid of domain-specific workbooks, participants then reflected on on our opening discussions about teacher wellbeing in Palestine and selected 1-2 strategies per domain that best fit Palestinian teachers’ needs. The selected strategies were then used as the basis for their Palestine specific action plans for teacher wellbeing.
Action plans for teacher wellbeing
Domain specific groups next used the action plan template to devise a three-year strategy that addresses a specific aspect of teacher wellbeing in Palestine. Domain 1: Foundational Standards, which outlines community participation and data analysis priorities, was already incorporated into each of the action plan template designs. The four participant groups selected and proposed the following priorities for domains 2 to 5:
Domain 2: Access to learning environments
- Follow the Dakar Framework to ensure that teachers work in an environment that promotes mutual understanding, peace, and tolerance, and helps prevent conflict and violence at school;
- Enhance teachers’ participation in assessing their own wellbeing needs and priorities;
- Prioritize the safety and protection of teachers in all school and community environments.
Domain 3: Teaching and learning
- Provide teachers with high-quality, school-based, and continuous professional development;
- Provide the skills and knowledge teachers need to manage the unique challenges of the Palestinian workplace.
Domain 4: Teachers and education personnel
- Review the conditions of work outlined in the INEE Minimum Standards framework to ensure that Palestinian teacher contracts represent best practice recommendations in terms of: tasks and responsibilities, attendance requirements, hours and days of work, and pay and benefits.
Domain 5: Education policy
- Ensure that policies and laws for the teaching profession make available free and comprehensive psychosocial support services for teachers at schools and in communities.
In addition to the strategies above, participants wanted to see the establishment of parent and community committees to provide support to teachers; the development of localized dimensions of individual teacher wellbeing and associated indicators; the development of a Palestine-wide and school-specific dashboard to track and respond to teachers’ wellbeing needs; and, the establishment of an internal body within the Ministry of Education focused on teachers’ wellbeing and psychosocial support.
A key insight that emerged from the workshop, which also reinforces global findings, is that teachers’ poor compensation is the foremost barrier to achieving better wellbeing outcomes.
However, we also learned that a focus on compensation alone can hinder productive discussion about other low-cost, innovative, and accessible solutions to teacher wellbeing in the short and medium term. A preoccupation with compensation thus prevents participants from recognizing the human resources, networks, and systems that already exist and can be utilized to better support teachers’ work and wellbeing in Palestine.
Our sense that teacher wellbeing remains on the margins of education policy making and practice was also confirmed. Participants strongly believed that an initiative in this regard is overdue and critical, especially in emergency settings like Palestine. As such, we are confident that the design and facilitation approach employed for this workshop provides the space and foundations for meaningful policy and practice focused discussions and sector-wide action planning.
Based on the success of this initial pilot, it is our vision that this workshop will be adapted and facilitated across the Middle East region and further afield.
To learn more about “Teacher Wellbeing in Emergency Settings: Regional Contextualization, Policy and Practice Workshop”, please reach out to Chris Henderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Abla Assaf (email@example.com).