There is a lot for us to complain about when it comes to where we find ourselves as teachers these days. This is arguably the most difficult time to be a teacher in several decades. We are all relearning how to teach.
Anxiety and stress are at all-time highs for teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Veteran teachers who used to have all of the answers are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged in the digital world. Those who thrive on the energy of students in the building and the personal interactions with students are having to adjust to either muffled voices behind expressionless masks or icons with names on a screen, unsure if the students are even present.
For those of you who have found it difficult to keep up the passion and enthusiasm that brought you into teaching, we just wanted to share some positivity in the form of fresh, optimistic approaches and ideas that educators have been sharing. Our intention is to encourage you and make you smile, but maybe you’ll be inspired to try something new.
Social media is filled with song parody videos of various members of school communities (teachers, administrators, counselors, secretaries, custodians, librarians) working together to bring some levity to the new rules of school while also letting students see them having fun.
For students who are new to the school, it’s a non-threatening opportunity to see these faces and the building. No auto-tune required here - just have fun with it!
We’ve seen plays on “For the First Time in Forever” (here’s another version), “Show Yourself”, “Can’t Touch This”, several versions of Hamilton’s “You’ll Be Back”, and a teacher boy band singing “In School It’s That Way”.
A simple way to start virtual teachers off with an energy boost and a smile is to greet them at the door with fun music (but don’t blare it on the PA system - that may frustrate and stress out the teachers who arrive early to get some work done in a quiet classroom).
You could do Mondays to help them get started, or Wednesdays to get them over the midweek hump, or celebrate the coming weekend on Fridays.
While there are lots of options for playlists, teachers really get excited when they hear songs from “back in their day”. Alternate decades and have fun with it - you’ll probably get some fun dancing down the hallway, too.
Leaders Being Silly
One administrator who has found herself having to spend more hours than usual monitoring students in shared spaces in order to allow for greater social distancing during lunch decided to spice things up and wear an inflatable t-rex costume.
Campus leadership at one all virtual school decided to add an element of fun each week by selecting a different class each week to decide “Who” gets “What”. The class can select any campus leader on the “Who” list and the surprise they get from the “What” list which includes a bouquet of flowers, a pie in the face, a gift card from Amazon, silly stringed, or a bucket of water on their head.
Take a Positive Perspective
A teacher on Twitter shared that one of his colleagues has started keeping a log of unexpected things that happen during virtual class time. Rather than documenting with a negative agenda, she uses it as a chance to build relationships. “Like a cat walks across the screen. Instead of chiding the student, she records, ‘Student has a cat. Ask its name later.’ That tiny, little move is about relationships now and later.”
If you are looking for a quick way to brighten the day of someone who is down, we have found that popping in with little snack size candy can really go a long way. Their smile and appreciation may even give you the boost you need to get through the day, as well. Consider having some sugar free candies or trail mix packs on hand for those teachers who have dietary restrictions and usually get left out of treat sharing.
We are seeing several posts that are going with the “When life gives you lemons…” theme and passing out lemonade, lemon cookies, and/or lemon candies with an encouraging note.
Fun and Games
The absolute worst thing you can do is force teachers to play icebreaker games when they don’t want to or don’t have time (OK, maybe not the absolute worst thing, but it’s pretty close). But, some teachers really enjoy the stress relief and miss the social interaction of a traditional school year.
Schedule an optional weekly virtual game time. There are lots of virtual games that are a quick Google search away. You may even have teachers who would totally do virtual karaoke or stand-up.
You could do a song parody competition.
Some schools that are all virtual have even set up games like cornhole for teachers in unused spaces.