Education in the world of remote learning during the time of the pandemic is tough. Administrators are just as lost and confused as most teachers - possibly even more so, in some cases. You may be wondering how you can help your teachers without getting in the way but don’t really have time or the ability to talk to many of them because they are working long hours, with their families, and just not easy to get in touch with thanks to the need for social distancing.
So we talked to some teachers and asked them what has been the most helpful thing an administrator has done for them, or what would be the most helpful thing an administrator could do to support them during this time. Here are some of the answers we received.
Under normal circumstances, you’d have many teachers doing just fine and a few really struggling. In this situation, there are very few who are doing fine, and nearly everyone is struggling.
Teachers say that compassion is the most important thing you can offer them right now. Understand that their students are struggling, their students’ families are struggling, and teachers and their own families are also struggling.
Don’t expect miracles to happen. This will NOT be like classroom learning. This is really different for everyone. There are so many things outside of the control of your staff and faculty members right now that to hold them accountable for much of anything is unfair.
If you hope to retain teachers, at least be reasonable.
At best, be compassionate.
Teachers are spending a lot of one-on-one time talking to parents and students. In fact, that may be how many of them spend the bulk of their time right now.
Although administrators generally like to get all their information out as quickly as possible and to everyone at once simultaneously, right now is the time that touching base one-on-one may be crucial. Teachers have questions, but few of their questions may be able to be answered in an all-staff communique or online meeting.
Consider holding meetings (very short ones) to touch base with each teacher weekly or bi-weekly just to check on them and ask them directly how you can help them. Some won’t know what to say. Some will just complain. Some won’t actually want you to do anything at all but just listen to them vent.
But reaching out to each person is the right step to take.
Keep a document with each teacher’s name and any needs they ask your help with so you can check on things or situations for which you don’t have ready answers. Let them know you are working on it and that their concerns are important to you.
They aren’t seeing your face each day. You need to take the extra initiative to show up where they are virtually or through an audio call so you can keep the lines of communication open.
Teachers are saying it’s absolutely maddening when their administrators won’t make decisions. They understand that this is a difficult time for everyone, but they need some clear direction from you right now.
You don’t have to be a taskmaster, or demeaning, or mandating every move, but if there is a question that ¼ to ½ of your staff are asking, you really need to make a decision.
And that applies not only for remote learning, for the rest of this year, and for the summer, but also for next year. You really need to communicate what you know as you know it. If you have any part in decision-making, you’d really better be listening to what teachers are saying they and the students need, and communicate what you know.
But as you do so, be sure you are getting input from your teachers and that they are getting input from their students. Although you can usually put yourself in their shoes when they are in the classroom, drawing from your own experiences, this is not something you can really understand. None of us have taught during a pandemic.
None of us have been students during a pandemic.
You need input from the experts, and in this situation, that is not you.
It’s the staff and students.
No matter what your experiences as an administrator have been like up until this point, now is the time to show up and get involved, showing compassion and support to your staff members. Your involvement in this process is absolutely vital, and what you do or don’t do can set the tone for the rest of your career.