The benefits of joining a professional community for teachers

One of the great things about the teaching profession is the sharing of expertise, knowledge, skills and experience that happens regularly in schools and beyond, including through professional organisations. Here, we chat to members of IGI (Ikatan Guru Indonesia – the Indonesian Teacher Association) about the benefits of being a part of these professional communities.

There are dozens of teacher associations in Indonesia – both formal organisations established by the government and those started by teachers themselves. Government-initiated associations tend to focus on the welfare of teachers, with central and regional administrators who are government heads of departments, lecturers and education officials.

IGI (Ikatan Guru Indonesia – the Indonesian Teacher Association) is a teacher-initiated association focused on improving teachers’ skills and all of its administrators, from the central level to the 34 provinces and 514 districts/cities, are practicing teachers.

According to the regulations of teachers and lecturers – Undang-Undang Nomor 14 Tahun 2005 mengenai Guru dan Dosen (Indonesian: State Law Number 14 Year 2005 on Teachers and Lecturers) – teachers are obliged to become members of a professional association. IGI was formed by teachers who saw the need for an association that focused on improving teacher competencies. As such, it regularly holds training and sharing activities to help teachers improve their own skills.

Wulan Widaningsih is IGI’s Head of Literacy. She has been a member for six years and currently teaches at SMPN 1 KEMANG KAB BOGOR, in West Java.

Can you explain a little bit about IGI and what it means to be a member?

I am delighted to be a member of IGI, because it not only enables me to improve my competencies in teaching my students, but also help me achieve self-actualisation in becoming an IGI teacher trainer.

We conduct coordination/meet-ups nearly every week at IGI’s headquarter, and sometimes daily if we have a certain activity coming up. Our literacy-related activities that we conduct each month are called Literasi Nusantara (Archipelago Literacy), and we also organise a seminar every three months called Literasi Dunia (World Literacy). These activities were initiated to provide teachers with sufficient understanding about cultural literacy – being adaptive towards national and global culture. We believe that if teachers are able to act and behave wisely with regard to the differences among every human being around the world, the lesson of Pancasila (Indonesian foundational philosophical/ideology) can be understood better by our students, as we attempt to nurture a generation with a high understanding of diversity.

We know that being a member of a professional community can help teachers improve their skills and knowledge. What do you consider to be the benefits?

It is very true. A professional community can be a real help in encouraging teachers to improve the quality of their classroom practice. And, being with people from the same profession, who share many of the same interests and passions, helps us to motivate each other to keep improving, to enrich our competencies and to implement best practices in the classroom – improving student outcomes.

A professional community is tangible evidence of a teacher’s passion in teaching, in innovation and creativity, and the will to keep improving each day. Teachers should always have a thirst for learning about the best teaching methods, and one of the ways they can do that is to join a professional teaching community.

In my opinion, the biggest benefit of being part of IGI (or any professional teacher association) is that it can improve your professional, pedagogical, personal, and social competence as a teacher:

  • Professionally, we are able to improve the learning for students, by mastering various teaching and learning methods and techniques, and IT. We continue to forge friendships in IGI and take part in training activities that hone our professionalism.
  • Pedagogically, of course, we will always share our experiences of problems that occur in the classroom with members of the professional community, then find a solution together; and we can attend activities related to teacher training and child psychology.
  • Personally, we become more open and mature – in professional organisations we get to know and make friendships with colleagues from different regions, with different personalities; we can reflect on the success of our colleagues and they can be an inspiration through their sincerity, achievements, and hard work.
  • Socially, we need to communicate effectively and cooperate with each other, to socialise and have good speaking skills – this can be difficult if we’re only engaged in our work in schools, but a professional community helps to train teachers in these things.

In IGI, can teachers and school principals also share their expertise with others by, for example, holding their own workshops and training?

Yes, of course they can – our base is rooted in schools. Schools where there are IGI principals or teachers will give in-house training to their peers. IGI teachers are always a driving force in their schools. Although, of course, it’s not always easy – there can be many obstacles in the field. In particular, with the upcoming POP program (a best practice empowerment program by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of Indonesia), IGI members will be involved in sharing knowledge and learning across all regions of Indonesia; and over the next three years, IGI trainers will enter schools to develop teacher training.

Danang Hidayatullah is the Chairman of IGI and currently teaches Performing Arts for Grades 6-9 MYP (the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program for students aged 11-16) at Binus School Simprug in Jakarta.

How long have you been with the IGI and what is your impression of the association as an active member?

I have participated in the activities of IGI since the days it was still called the Klub Guru Indonesia (KGI), before it finally changed its name to IGI in 2009, and I officially joined in 2015.

The spirit of sharing knowledge and supporting each other to improve the competence of teachers at IGI is immense. Members are learning teachers who are constantly adapting to change. IGI members are always consistent and diligent in exploring their potential and ideas to create newness; innovation in thinking and initiating change. They are aware that teachers are destined to create the education of the future. The spirit of togetherness, mutual trust and mutual support are three things that I have encountered in this organisation. This spirit is absolutely in line with IGI's motto “Sharing and Growing Together”.

What are your experiences of being part of a professional association or teacher community? What are the benefits for you and for your colleagues? On reflection, are you getting the most of out of the opportunities your membership provides? If not, how could you change this in the future?