Teacher Wellbeing in the Post-Pandemic Era
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we sat down with 5 teachers to gather their thoughts on the changing landscape of teaching.
We heard how teachers in the post-pandemic classroom find themselves drained and “frayed around the edges”. The past few years have shown how important it is for teachers to have support from colleagues and school leaders. Watch the full conversation below. Short on time? Read on to see a summary.
Lacking motivation? Reconnect with your “why”
Your “why” is what drives you to show up at work and perform your best. Our roundtable set out their ideas for finding motivation on those days when things get overwhelming.
- Remember why you got into teaching in the first place - this is the guiding principle that forms your “why”. It might have been the influence of a great teacher you once had, a passion for a particular subject, or something else entirely. This is personal to you, and thinking about it brings you a jolt of energy and motivation.
- Remember a moment of change or growth that you’ve had a part in. Maybe it was seeing a struggling reader develop into a confident reader, or implementing accessibility tools that made the school environment more inclusive for all. Use your successes to spur you on in those moments of self-doubt.
- Your “why” can change over time, especially in response to changing demands from the learning environment. For example you might have the short-term goal of rolling out a new digital learning platform, that feeds into your overarching goal of improving accessibility for students.
"Student success is a huge component of teacher efficacy. If my students have access to the right tools and can find success, and feel like they are making steps toward their greatest potential, the truth is that actually feeds me as the teacher. That’s a significant component of my own self advocacy and the feeling that I can do my job as a teacher."
- Joni Degner, Take 60 With Texthelp Host
Make time for self-care, however small
Setting aside time to de-stress is critical to avoiding burnout. Hear what our teacher panel had to say.
- Gather a Teacher Circle. Education can be an isolating profession - your colleagues are in separate rooms most of the time, and it can be tempting to use lunchtime to catch up on marking. One of our teachers, Kelley, shared how her colleagues would congregate outside her classroom after school. They’d chat about the day, vent, share stories, laugh, and check in on each other.
- Focus on one good thing. Kelley decided to intentionally pivot the teacher circle conversation towards the positive. She’d ask her colleagues: what’s one good thing that happened today? Soon, she no longer had to prompt them - everybody was excited to share something positive that had happened that day. On her drive home, Kelley set herself the goal of noticing one beautiful or interesting thing on her drive home. This easy form of meditation helped to divide her day between work and home life.
- Explore your interests. Take time to do things that bring you joy. For Stacey, that means continuing to explore her interest in education and collaborating on supplementary material. Other teachers prefer to listen to an audiobook, podcast or music during the drive home.
- Get fresh air. Something our panel noted was that we don’t have to wait until the end of the day to de-stress. They advised finding small pockets of downtime throughout the day. A quick coffee break in the staffroom or a lunchtime walk breaks up the day (and is made even better with the company of a colleague or a podcast!)
Make use of teacher hacks
Streamlining your workflow to be more efficient is another way to take care of yourself. There are only so many hours in the day, and reducing the time spent on repetitive admin gives us more time for other things!
- During our discussion, Nadine showed us how she organized her most-used links into Google Chrome folders that she arranged along her bookmarks bar. Among these was what she calls her Good Morning folder, containing her emails, specific Google Drive folders, her calendar, and other resources she uses each morning. Now, all the sites and tools she uses daily are reachable at the touch of a button.
- Another time-saving tip Nadine shared is the new email draft function in Google Docs, which allows for collaborative drafting. Check out Nadine’s mini demo here.
- We also saw how Google Slides can make a great navigation-deck for hosting all the resources students need to complete their units. You can find some examples here.
District-level or leadership-level support
Having a wider network of support is vital for allowing teachers the time, space and resources to perform their best. Hear about the initiatives that the teachers in our roundtable had benefited from.
- District Subject Specialists. A number of our teaching panel had subject specialists in their district who would provide teach-ins and professional learning to teachers in their community. This might involve co-teaching, grading assignments together, or observing teachers as they led a lesson.
- Our panelists’ schools had also instituted digital integration specialists, assistive tech specialists and UDL facilitators. These specialists worked in conjunction with teachers to implement sustainable EdTech structures and accessibility considerations.
- Quarterly pathways. School departments set yearly end goals and worked together to strategize how they could realistically achieve their targets. This was used not as a way to penalize teachers but as an internal system for reviewing efficacy and identifying problem areas so improvements could be made.
- Nadine shared how her school had taken a new approach to professional development, replacing bland teacher training days with lively PD conferences featuring motivational guest speakers who would re-energize teachers.
What learnings do we hope stick around from the pandemic?
The pandemic laid bare the weaknesses of education. As schools worked to implement digital infrastructure to support remote learning, it was the teachers with innovative, adaptive mindsets who thrived best.
As we move into post-pandemic education, now's the time to find balance between returning to “normal” and making use of the momentum gained.
- A digital integration strategy. Schools had to rush to roll out the infrastructure to support online learning. Although this was difficult, all our teachers agreed that this was something that needed to happen eventually. The pandemic just proved to be the catalyst for widespread change.
- Accessible educational materials. Remote teaching brought accessibility concerns to the forefront and enabled assistive tech advocates to get buy-in from colleagues and leadership. Schools quickly adopted accessible EdTech while teachers recognized the importance of providing digital copies.
- Establishing a collaboration hub where teachers feel able to ask for assistance and can pool resources. Rachel noted their all-hands-on-deck approach encouraged teamwork and feedback between teachers. School leaders would also regularly request feedback from teachers using Google Forms.
- Efficient organization and distribution of training resources. One example of this is how screen-casting became widely used as a way to quickly demonstrate a tool or function. Creating a 2 minute video that can be shared with the whole department is more efficient than demoing a concept one-to-one with every staff member.
Keep up with the celebrations this week with the hashtag #TeacherAppreciationWeek. You can tag us at @texthelp to share how you’re getting involved!