5 simple ways to support teachers now
From my early years as a classroom teacher until today as a district leader, I have always had the pleasure of working with phenomenal leaders. I used their guidance to shape my role as a school principal for 10 years, and I use it today as I continue to work side by side with administrators and teachers, coaching them on technology for the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Through my experiences, I have developed the following five simple ways that a leader can be supportive during challenging times—like today’s school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Give them freedom
Allow teachers to discover the best ways they can interact with their students from their current understanding of digital platforms. Many companies are allowing for free access and the teachers may have already found what works for them. Having freedom of choice will reduce the anxiety of many.
2. Move from mandates
Now is not the time to make sure that teachers are sending their lesson plans in via email every Monday or spending the proper amount of time on a specific subject. Things are different now. Allow teachers to discover what works best for them and their students. They may surprise you with what they discover.
3. Think grace
During this period of confusion and turmoil, think about offering grace to teachers and ask that they do the same for their students. The teachers will make mistakes. They will not be perfect. Perfection is the last thing we should be looking for here. As Kasey Bell, of Shake Up Learning, and others on social media have noted: The grace we give needs to be greater than our normal expectations. Quite simply: The greater the grace, the better the grades.
Things are different now. Allow teachers to discover what works best for them and their students. They may surprise you with what they discover.
As a school leader, I had the opportunity to give my teachers the autonomy they all craved. During that time, I released them from specific mandates and allowed them to have time for their own discovery. Without fear of failure, they created a dynamic school for students, and without the mandates, they also learned how they could develop focused lessons that met the students at their point of need.
4. Be supportive
Be ready to support teachers with the tools and methods they are using, and to offer up suggestions as needed. With all the tools and choices available, there is no way you can support all that a teacher may use or want to use; however, you can connect a teacher with others using different technologies through your current connections from Listservs and social media. If you have access to tech coaches, let them shine and aid teachers. If nothing else, you can curate YouTube videos that offer different tech options for teachers to use.
5. Offer encouragement
As an administrator, I was always reminded by the assistant principals or secretaries to celebrate the small wins. With those celebrations came encouragement. This is a brave new world that many are just embarking on, and we need to make sure that we celebrate and encourage teachers along the way. You may want to hold a digital faculty meeting just to thank teachers for their work or to let them know you are there for them.
Read: Keeping up connections
Teachers are in many ways like their students. They appreciate your support and care. At times, I had teachers who considered moving to another school or closer to home or who were just ready for a change of pace. I would always find ways to support the teacher who was seeking opportunities elsewhere. Often, the teachers stayed or stopped looking because they knew that if I would be willing to support them when they wanted a change, I would support them during other times, too.
Bonus: Remember, we need to care for ourselves as we care for our teachers. Take time during your day to do something for you. I still have sleepless nights thinking about how difficult this is for many now and how I can best support the masses. But I am making sure that every day I take time to get away from it all. Through music, mediation or other avenues, find a way to escape to rebuild and repair yourself. It will make you a better person for your faculty and students.
Greg Bagby (@Gregbagby) serves as coordinator of instructional technology for the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is an FETC® featured speaker. He previously served as a teacher, principal and adjunct professor.
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