How to Support Teachers During Stressful Times
As Covid cases lessen and we approach the end of the school year, it isn’t too late for administrators to support teachers and show that their extraordinary rally to keep schools running has been appreciated. For two pandemic years, teachers conquered the challenges of online classes (often impromptu) and faced the ever-shifting landscape of in-person classes. Teachers were also the frontline for keeping classes as scheduled and presenting a confident image to students and their parents. They managed this while, in the background, their resolve was tested by staff shortages, quarantines, and various health protocols to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Stress leading to burnout became an unfortunate consequence for overworked, over-stressed teachers (read more here). In addition, teachers were teachers for only part of the day. They had other commitments—elderly parents, spouses, and their own children, tired of quarantine. Administrators must continue to give teachers overt support if they are to continue to give their best to students. From end of year meetings to last day parties, incorporate the tips below to create a supportive environment for your teaching staff all year round.
Strive for Open Communication
Many meeting topics require elevated levels of tact and sensitivity, from decisions to adopt new curricula to discussions surrounding Anti-bias, Antiracist (ABAR) initiatives. On the other hand, some topics can be covered briefly (i.e., approving minutes, setting dates for special events, etc). Making these distinctions will save time and lessen meeting fatigue.
For instance, simple policy changes might not need discussion after the fact. But, at every meeting set aside a few minutes for open discussion. This way even topics that were not slated to be discussed can be mentioned and teachers will feel heard. It will allow for discussion of topics that administrators might not have registered.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting realistic expectations for teachers' workloads and the results will lower stress levels. Assess how much additional work teachers are being asked to do because of the pandemic. Individual meetings between administrators and teachers for feedback can help align expectations and goals. Holding an end of year meeting where teachers can reflect and discuss what worked and what didn’t can lead to stimulating brainstorming sessions that solve challenges.
Schedule and Add Structure
Teachers have found themselves burdened with extra duties due to pandemic related staff shortages. This has led to loss of prep time that is crucial for planning activities; prep time is especially critical in the Montessori classroom where the environment is carefully prepared for student success. Administrators can start a discussion with teachers and support staff to work out how prep time can be restored. For instance, are any parent volunteers available to cover for a short time before or after class? Is it possible to enlist parent volunteers to help prepare the class environment? Brainstorming solutions in a meeting can lead to a variety of approaches that might be of help in the future.
Create a Healthy Environment
A healthy environment promotes the physical, social, and emotional well-being of your teachers. Administrators can help teachers interpret the latest guidelines to stay up-to-date on protective procedures. Depending on time, schedule debriefings once a week or month. Administrators can also encourage mitigation of stress by adding natural elements, like plants, throughout the school. Even posters of natural landscapes or the color green have been shown to reduce stress. Lastly, offer nutritious snacks in the staff area to boost health.
With administrative support, teachers will have the tools to meet the increased demands of their jobs. Through realistic goal setting and keeping the lines of communication open, administrators will help shape a happy end of year with low teacher turnover and no burnout.
About the Author
V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images.