This year is so hard for everyone, and our teachers are feeling it. They came into this work because they love kids, and distance and hybrid learning have changed what those connections feel like. For those teaching virtually, it’s challenging to teach to 30 boxes. Putting eyes on your students helps put things in perspective. We’re using a hybrid model in my school and that comes with many of its own stressors.
People always need to know we care as leaders, but especially right now. There’s a human factor missing in some of our interactions during this pandemic, and it’s causing educators to lose hope. As leaders, we have to work to restore that hope at all times. That’s my “why” this year.
I know that emotional support is the biggest need on my team. My goal is to find ways to create that school-community feeling, even though we’re not all together physically every day. I’m working to think of more ways to keep my teachers pumped up, because if I work with them, they can work with the kids.
Three ways I’m working to foster a feeling of community during hybrid learning:
Adding some little delights and pick-me-ups
Some of my typical day-to-day responsibilities don’t exist this year, so I’m trying to redirect my energy toward supporting teachers. Teachers need emotional support from their leaders, and I’ve been trying to offer some motivation in the form of little monthly pick-me-ups, whether it’s doing a lunch run or offering a treat from a local shop. Teachers love, love, love these little treats. They’re small things, but they offer that touch of humanity, bring some balance to teachers’ days and show that their leaders care about their happiness.
Offering the gifts of time and space
In addition to those little surprises that add delight, we’ve also worked to take things off teachers’ plates. On teacher workdays, we make sure there aren’t any required meetings, and we try to make any PD time very self-paced, so they have that space to collaborate and be collegial with one another. On regular class days, we offer coverage so teachers can have some relief with small breaks throughout the day.
Taking some pressure off by adjusting expectations to fit the circumstances
Teachers are learning so much on the fly, and there’s no way they can be successful with everything they try. I’ve had teachers worrying, “Am I not performing the way I should? Am I going to lose my job?”
Whenever I notice that a teacher is just not having their best day, I assure them that none of us is perfect. There are things coming up this year that none of us – including me – have answers for. All we can do is work through it together. Right now, we can’t expect teachers to perform at optimum levels. They just can’t. There’s so much stress and anxiety.
I’ve tried to make myself accessible and let teachers know they can send me a chat message if they have a question or even if they just need 15 minutes to step away and regroup. I tell them, “Don’t feel like admitting you’re having a hard day is going to be held against you.” That’s broken down a lot of barriers. Putting those fears to rest allows teachers to just come in, be themselves and do their best in this classroom environment. That’s all we can ask for.
For teachers to do their best, they need to feel supported. They need to feel hopeful about the future – their own future and their students’ futures. With all the stress right now, it’s easy to lose that hope, and our job as leaders is to point out reasons to be hopeful. I want to give that hope back to our teachers.
P.S. You can see what’s keeping your fellow school leaders motivated here. Share your own ‘why’ using #WhyILeadNow, and your message will be included on this site, too!