Empowering Teachers for Rebuilding: The Teacher’s Network in Action

The Teacher’s Network (Öğretmen Ağı) aims to empower teachers by creating a sustainable learning environment in which they can collaborate with their colleagues and various stakeholders.

The Teacher’s Network is receiving grant support from our  Kahramanmaras Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund, launched in collaboration with the Support Foundation for Civil Society (Sivil Toplum için Destek Vakfı), to support dedicated teachers in Hatay, Adıyaman, Adana, and Kahramanmaraş in facilitating a seamless school adaptation process for their students.

Please read the following interview with the organisation for an insight into their work and the impact of their initiatives.

The Teacher’s Network connects teachers with colleagues and various professionals to foster growth. What are your thoughts on the current state of your field?

From the beginning, the Teacher’s Network has operated on the principle of “not on behalf of teachers, but together with teachers.” This is significant because, for many years, initiatives have been created for teachers without involving them as active participants. We believe teachers should be seen as key stakeholders to improve the quality of education. Unfortunately, the current situation shows that teachers often feel disempowered and lack opportunities to share innovative practices.

With grant support, you are implementing the “Teachers in Building Life” (Yaşamın İnşasında Öğretmen Var) project. Can you provide details about the project’s activities, outcomes, and impact?

The “Teachers in Building Life” project was designed in response to the needs of teachers in earthquake-stricken regions. It consists of three main phases: content production, experience sharing, and field dissemination. We adapted the Creative Problem-Solving Program for this project and organised a two-day event in Adana for 39 teachers from earthquake-affected areas. By the end of the event, four creative solution proposals were developed for students, teachers, and parents.

Additionally, we enriched the Mobile Psychosocial Support Program with a workshop that resulted in the creation of the “Post-Disaster Support Activities Program Handbook.” We also organised events with disaster response experts and sessions during the Teacher’s Network Summer Gathering where teachers shared their experiences.

We established a volunteer pool of 45 Change Ambassador teachers who received comprehensive training. These volunteers provided academic and psychosocial support in seven centres across Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş, and Hatay, reaching 735 children and 71 parents. The impact is best captured by the children’s eager inquiry, “When will you be back?” This program directly aligns with the needs of children and provides a platform for teachers to contribute to the region’s recovery efforts.

How does your project increase teachers’ capacity to address the needs in the earthquake-affected regions?

We conducted a needs analysis to gather input from teachers while designing this project, ensuring that teachers were involved in every stage. The main need identified was the limited number of volunteers in the field. Our project addressed this by bringing together local teachers with those from outside the region, allowing them to work collaboratively and develop solutions based on firsthand experiences. This increased their capacity to produce content and directly address the problems they encountered.

What strategies can be used to organise and sustain human resources for school adaptation after an earthquake?

Our main strategy was to focus on the well-being of teachers for sustainability. Volunteer teachers visited the field a maximum of twice a month, and we provided psychological support during or after fieldwork if needed. After new teachers were appointed to the region, we planned activities to meet their needs.

Another important strategy of ours was to establish a protocol with the Hatay Provincial Directorate of National Education to reach newly appointed teachers. This allowed us to deliver activities throughout the province and adapt our work based on the needs identified by the Directorate.

What can you say about the long-term effects of your project on the education system in the earthquake zone?

The Teacher Network believes that improving the education system starts with empowering its most crucial element: teachers. Recognising the need for teachers’ well-being, we established a volunteer pool to support educators in the earthquake-affected regions, helping them assist their peers and contribute to the communities there. The programs are tailored to address the specific needs of local teachers, ensuring that they receive the support they deserve.

Stakeholder interviews revealed the pressing need for teachers to socialise and connect. This insight led to the creation of the Teacher Solidarity Area, designed to foster a sense of camaraderie, collaboration, and overall well-being among educators, particularly among newly appointed teachers. We envision this space as a hub for teachers to share experiences and find support.

Can you tell us about the upcoming projects and priorities of the Teacher’s Network? How has the grant support impacted your future activities?

Following the February 6th earthquakes, we launched two key projects: “Teachers in Building Life” and “Teacher Solidarity Area”. These projects are pillars of our short-term goals. Looking ahead, we plan to meet teachers’ needs for connection and socialisation with the “Teacher Solidarity Area” project, to combat feelings of isolation. The “Teachers in Building Life” project, focusing on teachers’ well-being and professional development, has been a significant leverage point for us to achieve these goals. We’re also planning to develop the protocol which we aimed to establish as part of the project, with the Provincial National Education to expand the impact of our work. 

What message would you like to send to donors in this era of rebuilding a culture of giving?

From a teacher’s perspective, the impact of our work isn’t always immediately visible or quantifiable. While we understand that donors often seek measurable results, it’s important to acknowledge that numbers don’t always paint the whole picture. Imagine a child affected by the earthquakes saying, “We’re waiting for you to come back!” This kind of emotional impact is difficult to quantify, but it’s incredibly significant.

Our primary focus is on teacher well-being, knowing that it has a positive ripple effect on students. When teachers feel supported and empowered, they create better learning environments. Qualitative indicators, such as a teacher developing skills, taking initiative, thinking creatively, and approaching problems critically through long-term volunteering, are crucial to us.

Donations made through Turkey Mozaik Foundation and the Support Foundation for Civil Society have been vital. They’ve provided a safe space, improved communication between teachers, students, and parents, and promoted solidarity in the face of tragedy. We sincerely thank all donors and encourage continued support for our work.