Monday, May 18, 2020

Preventing Teacher Burnout During the Covid19 Crisis

I think we can all agree that teachers are doing the impossible.  Most of them are doing it really well.  Teachers need to be celebrated and need to know they are valued.  Whether this means dropping off food, yard signs, personalized letters, or simply making phone calls, teachers need to know we care.

So much of faculty burnout happens when teachers do not feel their work is valued.  Of course, we can all agree what they are doing is of tremendous value.  The key here in our roles as leaders is to create an environment (albeit virtually) that helps manage teachers' expectations, creates security around what we will be asking of each teacher, and enables teachers to feel supported.  Let's unpack how we can do this.

For one, we all know that there are several unknown variables that exist right now. We are not sure what September will look like.  Even if we go back, are we all going back?  Is there a hybrid approach to learning where students spend half the day learning from home and half the day learning in the school building?  What rules will we need to follow to ensure safety within our institutions?  What expects will have of teachers?  What grades will we need to hire new staff for?  Who may be leaving and who may need to change grades?

As administrators, we are trying our best to strategize ahead of time and plan for every possible scenario.  However, we also recognize we will need to be responsive to the needs of our students, staff, and families when rolling out any new plans.  This means we will be tweaking them after we roll them out.  Additionally, we will lack some of the information we usually have at this time of year to make accurate decisions about next year, so changes will have to happen later.

Furthermore, parents, if we go remote again in September or any hybridization of distance learning happens, will expect a much smoother ride this time around.  They will expect teachers will know how to use the technology needed to make students less reliant on parents.  They will expect districts will provide whatever technology is needed so they will not have to excessively print out materials for their children.  Parents will expect systems to be in place and forethought to be there.  They will have less patience then they have had.

Hence, communication with faculty is key.  It is not only important to clarify for teachers whatever ambiguity about their role exists, but also what the options could be (when possible).  Being honest, as usual, is the best policy.  This means realistically, we are talking about having a lot of frank and sometimes difficult conversations with teachers.  Whether it means telling a new hire that you probably will not know until Murphy announces about school in September which grade level the faculty member will teach.  It means talking with an established teacher about the teacher's multiple certifications and that you cannot commit to necessarily keeping that teacher on his/her current grade level, but you will try.  It means to tell teachers they may need to have more videoconferencing in the fall and that they need to work on giving feedback to students about all work submitted.

Whatever you plan to say to your staff, you need a clear plan, training for the fall NOW, and a listening ear.  Teachers need time to vent and let you know how they feel about the shifting expectations, their incredibly balancing act between their private and professional lives, and what they need to be successful.

Wondering what you should be training your staff in now?

  • Learning management systems for all grade levels.  If you have one, then fine-tuning and training your staff in the plethora of ways they can be used. 
    • SeeSaw, Canvas, Google Classroom
  • Online textbooks, assessment tools, and practice websites
    • Into Reading, Prodigy, IXL, Singapore Math Live, I-Ready, etc...
  • Training on the hybrid learning models
The key here is clarity whenever possible about expectations.  

Teachers also need to be celebrated; they need to know they are valued.  Whether this means dropping off food, yard signs, personalized letters, or simply making phone calls, teachers need to know we care.