Teachers and school leaders are facing challenging times, with the impact of COVID-19 requiring schools all around the world to close their doors and move to online learning. The stresses experienced by everyone involved will be twofold - how do I adjust to this new way of working, and what is the likely impact of the virus on my family?
Whilst schools will, quite rightly, be focussing on the needs of their students and families, helping them cope with the changes they are experiencing, it is important to ensure that the needs of their teachers are considered as well. So how can schools help their staff and ensure that their wellbeing needs are being met?
Good communication with staff will be essential; if teachers feel that they are part of the team, even when working from home they will feel more secure. This can be in the form of a blog keeping them up to date with the latest news, but regular one to one meetings with someone from the leadership team will help. These can be online, or even a simple phone call, but they provide an opportunity to check-in, make sure that teachers have what they need and to provide a sympathetic ear when necessary.
Make sure that teachers have clear guidelines and expectations. We all know that teachers have a tendency to go the extra mile so helping them to manage their workload will be important. Online teaching will be completely new for many so reassure them that they don’t need to strive for perfection in everything they are trying to do. It will also be valuable as time goes on, to try and give your staff time to consolidate new skills and to share what they have learnt with their colleagues.
Teachers are, by their very nature, social people and they will miss out on the day to day interactions they have with their colleagues. Try setting up a online teaching staffroom, where they can get together and talk to each other. Web conferencing tools can be used to set up regular online learning events where teachers can join up over a cup of coffee and just chat with their friends. An online forum or bulletin board can be used for sharing general news, (particularly good news) and a buddy system allows staff to pair up and support each other more effectively.
Finally, keep encouraging your staff. For many teachers the step into the world of online teaching will be an uncertain one and they will need to know that they are doing the right thing. Reassurance and encouragement from senior leaders and colleagues will go a long way in reducing the stress of the situation and help them to manage their day to day lives and activities.
Here at Firefly we have had the privilege of working with many different schools and their staff, and have always been amazed by the determination, creativity and resourcefulness that we encounter in schools. Whilst the challenge ahead might seem daunting, we know that teachers around the world will rise to meet it. It's up to the rest of us to support them in this endeavour and we at Firefly are committed to keep learning going.
Want to find more useful resources on managing school closures? We have recently created a dedicated page for supporting schools impacted by COVID-19, which includes information on our upcoming webinars on best distance learning practices.