In the best of times, teaching is a challenging profession. It requires immense creativity, flexibility, patience, and the ability to be “on” constantly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficulty of these tough tasks has increased. Teachers also face new challenges, from teaching digitally to ensuring students follow health and safety requirements. It’s a recipe for heightened stress levels and teacher burnout. In this post, we’ll share five tips on how administrators can support teachers during COVID-19.
5 Top Tips on How Administrators Can Support Teachers During COVID-19
Right now, administrators must ask more from teachers than ever before. It’s important to also offer increased support, demonstrating to your staff that you are all in this together. Here’s how.
1. Consult and communicate
Give teachers input into important decisions about plans, policies, and health and safety measures. Remain open and transparent. Answer questions and address concerns.
Anxiety is fueled by a lack of information and a lack of control. Providing teachers with more information and a more active role in the decision-making process will help soothe anxiety. Teacher input also allows you to find solutions that will best support your teachers without adding excessive pressure and stress.
Additionally, use communication and collaboration to offer a continued sense of community. If teachers aren’t gathering in person, hold occasional Zoom meetings or phone calls just to check in. Encourage teachers to share ideas, discuss problems and solutions, and simply connect with one another. Community and connection are powerful anecdotes to stress.
2. Provide tech training and support
Most teachers are teaching in virtual or hybrid classrooms, many for the first time. Confusion and issues with new technology compound the stress and frustration of the current situation. Make sure your teachers have the training and support they need to navigate new technology.
Host virtual trainings, or film simple tutorial videos to share with teachers. Create an atmosphere in which teachers feel comfortable reaching out with questions. At least one knowledgeable school leader should make themselves available to provide technology assistance.
Even better, it’s helpful to have a designated technology support team. Whatever is practical for your school, provide a way for teachers to ask and quickly receive answers to inquiries about unfamiliar technology or tech issues.
As you offer resources, keep in mind that less is more. A teacher survey showed that teachers prefer a few simple resources to start with, before gradually moving to more complex options. “Teachers who were flooded with websites, learning platforms and other resources often viewed them not as resources, but as demands, leading to more teacher burnout,” the survey indicated. So, start simple and provide adequate support, then add additional technology and resources only as needed.
3. Preserve a sense of normalcy
When everything changes, providing some degree of normalcy is reassuring and stabilizing. Think about what can stay the same.
For instance, continue to hold certain meetings or training sessions, but make them virtual if necessary. Share morning announcements via email or video. Stay connected through social media, Zoom, or text messages and phone calls. Stay organized and get your teachers and students into a reliable routine, while understanding that flexibility is sometimes necessary right now.
When necessary, create a “new normal.” If you’re receiving a lot of questions from teachers, for example, compile a “Friday FAQs” email with helpful answers to frequent questions. Make this weekly email a new tradition that your staff can expect and count on. Or, ask your staff to share ideas and inspiration for navigating virtual teaching, and send them out in a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter.
4. Encourage and celebrate
Although teachers are doing so much right now, many don’t feel that they’re doing enough. They’re worried about their students and concerned that virtual lessons can’t measure up to in-person instruction. They fret over the inequity that comes with learning virtually, all while juggling new responsibilities within their own families too.
Recognize, encourage, and celebrate your teachers. Let them know that you’re aware it’s hard, and you appreciate all of their hard work. If you send out a weekly or monthly newsletter, include “shout-outs” highlighting teachers. Send individual text messages and emails thanking and encouraging faculty members. If a parent or student tells you something complimentary about a teacher, let them know.
Keep in mind that many teachers feel down on themselves right now, and do your best to lift them up. Even the smallest acknowledgement or compliment means more than you think.
5. Emphasize self-care
Finally, encourage your teachers to practice self-care. Make it clear that you understand the necessity of self-care and that your teachers’ mental and emotional health is a priority to you.
Share tips like the following:
- Stay connected with friends, family, and coworkers.
- Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of sleep, and exercise.
- Engage in relaxing activities that you enjoy.
- Be kind to yourself—you are going above and beyond the call of duty right now. We are all navigating something entirely new, and bumps in the road are inevitable.
- Meditate, write in a journal, or listen to calming music.
- Set boundaries. Even if you’re working from home, parents don’t need to reach you at all hours. Have “office hours” or respond to communication only during normal school hours.
- Ask for help when you need it. (Provide resources and contact information, e.g. someone to contact with tech issues, services teachers can access for mental health support, etc.).
Final Thoughts: How Administrators Can Support Teachers During COVID-19
One of the world’s toughest jobs has become even tougher. As a school administrator, it benefits your teachers, students, school, and community to provide extra support to teachers during this uniquely challenging time. Remember to:
- Consult and communicate openly.
- Provide training and support for new technology.
- Preserve a sense of routine and normalcy.
- Encourage and celebrate your teachers and their achievements, however small.
- Emphasize the importance of self-care, and give teachers the time and space to practice it.
Teachers should understand that you’re here to support them. They should feel comfortable reaching out with questions and concerns, rather than fearing reprimands. By prioritizing the wellness of your teachers, you’re improving this challenging experience for everyone in your school community.