In the first part of this topic, we talked about the fact that teachers and students are the experts at remote learning right now, even though they are only beginning. They know what they need, and administrators can be a great asset by being available, being compassionate, and making decisions so teachers aren’t left wondering what the next step is.
The information we’re sharing is from the experts - teachers and students. They’ve shared stories with us about how their administrators are helping them, and the things that would be most helpful for administrators to do.
In this article, we’ll talk a bit more about other things that you can do to help.
It’s vital that when you have something to say to your staff, you communicate clearly.
If you aren’t great at writing emails or sending out information in writing, get someone to help you (possibly an English teacher, or someone on your staff for whom communication is natural and seems easy). Explain your thoughts and ideas as best you can, and work collaboratively until you feel your message is getting through.
Be ready for questions that may arise after. Ask yourself “What could people misunderstand about this? What questions should I be ready to answer?” Be proactive in preparing for feedback.
If you have to deliver difficult news, studies show the best way to do that is to be concise, direct, and respectful. If at all possible, speak to individuals it is likely to affect the most one-on-one, and possibly even by contacting them before letting everyone else know if the situation calls for that.
Don’t Assume, Explain
Teachers are doing all sorts of things that are new to them. You can’t assume that they understand how to use the technology, what precisely they need to be teaching, or that they understand any of the other requirements newly placed upon them.
And to be fair, neither do administrators, in most cases.
But teachers have mentioned that administrators are gladly forwarding massive amounts of information to them to “help” them solve their own issues. The problem with this is that teachers have so many new and evolving responsibilities that they really don’t have time to sit and read manuals. They need the information they need when they need it.
What teachers could really use is the actual information, condensed, and specific to the trouble they are having. This requires you to do some of that “leg-work”.
Personally shift through those manuals, explanation videos, and websites. Find what your teachers need, and make your own summary or quick video to show them what to do. You may even want to identify the most important clips and share the timestamps with teachers so they don’t have to watch 30 minutes of a video when they need 45 seconds.
Although many administrators are just as busy as teachers, some are not, and in that case, it’s only fair to shoulder some of that extra work teachers are doing. They are absolutely swamped and some are just struggling to survive.
And before you say, “That’s not my job,” stop. Everyone is doing things that aren’t part of any job requirements they’ve ever had.
Your teachers need you right now. There is no one else to do it. It’s definitely your job to help them, even if that means that to understand what needs to be done, you start teaching some classes, too. Now is not the time to hide behind a title. Now is the time for everyone involved to pull together and reach out to students.
As writers, we’re finding that it’s getting harder and harder to understand the complexities of what teachers are dealing with right now, so we are spending a lot of our “research” time just talking to teachers, asking them questions, and listening to their responses.
Administrators should be doing this, too.
Teachers need help, but they don’t always know what questions to ask, and they don’t always have time to sit and think about it. Listen to their complaints and triumphs. Ask specific questions like, “How can I help with ____?”
When they are willing to speak to you about what they need, don’t take it personally - even if it’s about you. Just put that immediate reaction to the side, and define the problem for what it is. Then try to work together to find a solution.
There’s always one teacher in the bunch who finds a problem with everything - and usually tells you about it. Although under normal circumstances, that may be frustrating and annoying, this may be that teacher’s moment to shine. You don’t need the teachers who are just going to stroke your ego and tell you how great everything is right now. You NEED those complainers.
It’s not pleasant, but it’s the best way to the root of the problem, sometimes. Those problem finders are often so loud because they feel like no one is listening to them. So listen. Ask them how they’d solve the problem. You may be surprised at how much thought and insight they share with you.