Solution Overview

Solution name:

Teachers' Lounge - by the Funstachios

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One-line solution summary:

A reflective journaling and peer support system to promote mental health and professional development for ECE teachers in low-resource contexts.

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Which Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Equitable Classrooms: How can all young learners have access to quality, safe, and equitable learning environments?
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Pitch your solution.

While early child education (ECE) addresses the most crucial stage in brain development, ECE teachers in low-resource or crisis contexts often lack training and professional development support. This can be for budget, cultural, motivational, or bureaucratic reasons. We want to address this problem by developing a fast-return, low-cost and scalable support system for struggling teachers.

Our solution is a simple reflective journaling practice that enables teachers to reflect, individually and with peers, on their daily experiences to consolidate their learning and spread inspirational good practice. To optimise reach, our system works in no-tech (photocopiable journal templates and local buddy system), low-tech (templates, webinar and social media support groups), and tech-driven (app-based journaling with classroom wellbeing tips) use-cases.

The content draws on research showing that reflective journaling helps teacher professional development. Our journaling prompts target mental health best practice, classroom inclusion, teacher empowerment, and parent engagement.

Research shows that learners' and teachers' wellbeing goes hand-in-hand. By improving teachers' mental health and professional skills, we aim to focus on increasing attainment of students aged 5-8. Evidence also shows that teachers' successes inspire others. Through peer-to-peer engagement we aim to encourage the sharing of success, and spread joy from positive moments.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Our solution's stage of development:

Concept
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Is this a new solution, an existing solution, or an adaptation of an existing solution?

New solution
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How does your solution incorporate research?

  • This project is inspired, in part, by the findings of a research team at Notre Dame University Louaize, Lebanon, as part of a pilot project to support ECE inclusion in refugee classes in Lebanese public schools, 2019-2020. The findings are being prepared for publication but include evidence that good practice inspires improved teacher engagement, and that journaling can be a low-cost, high impact intervention to help teachers' professional development.
  • Research by Grothaus (2015) suggests that feelings of wellbeing are created through journaling because while the left-side of the brain that is involved with writing is engaged the creative part is free to wander and play and this has a cathartic effect.
  • An OECD (2020) working paper reports that teacher wellbeing has a positive effect on student attainment. 
  • Research by Save the Children in Iraq has shown that "support for teachers' professional development is vital during emergency, chronic crisis and early reconstruction contexts as teachers can have a significant impact on their students' well-being."
  • The psychological and professional benefits of reflective journaling are widely documented (but rarely quantified).
  • We see huge potential for our project to contribute to the evidence base in this field.
  • Some other academic sources we will draw on as we develop the pilot:
    • "The Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Educator: Self-Reflective Journaling", Janet Pickard Kremenitzer, Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 33, No. 1, August 2005 (Ó 2005)
    • "Common themes and emerging trends for the use of technology to support mental health and psychosocial well-being in limited resource settings: A review of the literature", Nadi Nina Kaongaa,b,c,⁎, Jonathan Morgand, Psychiatry Research 281 (2019) 112594
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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Angela Solomon

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

The Teacher Lounge solution is innovative on two levels. Firstly, it provides an equitable and wholistic solution to teachers with little or no access to mental health resources. The wellbeing of the teacher is a crucial part of the student's learning. (OECD, 2018). Through a low-cost paper-based journaling resource it provides an easy way to express their feelings (vent) and aids reflection with an integrated "buddy system" where teachers can talk about their issues and feel listened to while still keeping to a safe, closed group. This has been shown to be effective in  reducing stress (Grothaus, 2015). Less stressed teachers make a happier learning environment for all stakeholders.

Secondly Teacher Lounge is innovative in that it has been designed to be a low tech solution that leads to a medium and high tech integration. A low tech version is desirable not only for those who do not have access to connectivity or devices but also those teachers who have spent hours in a Zoom class and want to be screen-free for a few moments. This version also has a tear-off section for teachers to send to a parent to celebrate the achievement of their child and extends the well-being to the child's home and makes a happier learning ecosystem. The low-tech version options to transfer paper responses to the digital format if and when the technology or connectivity is available. This solution can have an immediate high impact and is highly scalable.

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What is your theory of change?

If we make it easy for ECE teachers in low-resource environments to regularly complete a reflective journal, then learners' education outcomes and wellbeing will increase, because teachers' mental health and professional development will improve.

Activities:

1. With journaling experts and ECE teachers, co-create journal packs: templates, buddy system, and guidance. Develop mechanisms/platform to share and celebrate small successes.

2. Pilot: Distribute packs to selected public school ECE teachers in Lebanon and Turkey, and support their use through webinars and checkins.

3. Gather information on usage of the packs and expand/adapt pilot.

Outputs:

1. Journals completed weekly by 25%+ of teachers in pilot schools.

2. Buddying meetings held at least once every 2 months.

3. At least one 'Celebration slip' per week sent home to parents praising positive behaviours or effort, in students at all levels of educational attainment.

Short term outcomes:

1. Increase in morale as teachers feel more empowered and celebrate small wins

2. Reduced level of teacher stress as they have more opportunities to vent

3. Improvements in in-class practice from self-reflection and feedback from buddy, e.g. more creativity, initiative.

Long term outcomes: 

1. Increase in ECE attainment and mental health of learners in these teachers' classes

2. Greater retention of ECE teachers due to increased job satisfaction

3. Teachers participate more actively in shaping the curriculum and classroom practice due to greater feelings of empowerment.

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
  • Persons with Disabilities
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In which countries do you plan to be operating within the next year?

  • Iran
  • Lebanon
  • Turkey
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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Next year (to April 2022): Pilot

  • Packs in use by at least 200 actively journaling teachers (out of 1,000 packs delivered)
  • Reaching at least 35 learners each = 7,000 learners
  • In at least 10 schools and at least 3 different refugee contexts (camps, communities, etc)

We will achieve these impact goals by taking an active role in developing and testing this concept. In parallel, we'll be creating data collection mechanisms and working with teachers to co-design a peer-to-peer sharing platform to celebrate successes and good practice, and offer mental health tips for the classroom.

Next 5 years (to April 2026)

  • Free packs in use by at least 10,000 actively journaling teachers in challenging contexts, reaching at least 350,000 refugee learners
  • Premium packs being sold to schools or teachers in high or middle-income countries, reaching at least 5,000 teachers and 175,000 learners. Proceeds fund the distribution and development of more free packs and resources.
  • Connections between journaling teachers established through online platforms, with best practice being shared and celebrated through an international peer-to-peer platform
  • A teacher journaling movement has been created!

We will achieve these impact goals by empowering teachers to engage each other in the benefits of journaling and self care. We want this movement to start spreading organically, where our project offers high quality materials but the impetus is driven by highly motivated teachers and education leaders who believe in its impact.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Next year (to April 2022)

TECHNICAL - data collection, given that our resources will mostly be physical, not digital

FINANCIAL - we need funding to develop pilot materials and presence on the ground in test locations.

CULTURAL 1 - understanding the specific needs of teachers in refugee environments, and what will motivate them to keep journaling.

CULTURAL 2 - Teachers may feel unsafe writing their thoughts, and/or may not wish to share their experiences, even positive ones, in low-trust environments.

CULTURAL 3 - We need access to teachers; this is sometimes challenging.

Next 5 years (to April 2026)

FINANCIAL- We will need seed funding to develop our revenue model for sustainability (see below). We'll also need to build a team with expertise to keep creating resources and reaching teachers, in multiple locations and languages.

CULTURAL - We will be creating a new culture and will need to adapt our approach to different environments.

TECHNICAL - Collecting data on outcomes (i.e. impact on learners) will be challenging unless we can secure participation from school leaders and/or ministries of education.

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Next year (to April 2022)

TECHNICAL: We will develop a simple platform for teachers to share successes, connect, and get wellness tips. This platform will be designed to give us data on the spread and success of our materials. It will be accessible in low-data environments.

FINANCIAL: We will win a grant from Jacobs Foundation!

CULTURAL: We will co-create the resources and systems with teachers and journaling experts. We will test and iterate the resources before we attempt to scale.

CULTURAL 2 - Teachers will keep their journals private and only be invited to share their successes with peers. They will identify a trusted buddy for more personal discussions and accountability.

CULTURAL 3 - We will seek to partner with ministries of education and/or school leaders. If this is not possible we will offer our resources via informal networks of teachers, e.g. Facebook groups.

Next 5 years (to April 2026)

FINANCIAL - We will fundraise based on evidence generated in our pilot. We may seek to enter a support programme like the UNHCR Humanitarian Education Accelerator.

CULTURAL - We will build partnerships with local organisations who can spread the word about this programme and potentially partner with us to create materials and products.

TECHNICAL - Our partnerships with education ministries should help overcome this. If this is not possible, we will develop mechanisms for teachers to submit self-assessments so we can gauge the impact of their journaling in the long term.

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Solution Team

 
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