The pandemic has made clear the deep inequities in our society, especially within the educational system. And it became clear the many roles schools play beyond academics: like getting lunches to those who can’t afford them and providing a robust childcare system that makes it possible for parents and guardians to be employed outside the home to keep our economy open.
But with so many educators working remotely, the pandemic also gave teachers a glimpse into a different kind of working life, one in which they have more time to reflect, review student work and plan, thanks to the decrease in student-facing time. The experience of teaching from home underscored the wellbeing gap that the teaching profession as a whole faces.
Once it became clear that we were in a full-fledged pandemic last Spring, most schools shifted to a “distance learning/distance teaching” model. By and large, the ways of teaching and the expectations of student learning were the same as they were before the shutdown. But teaching over Zoom in this way was challenging even for the most adept, experienced, and tech-savvy teachers. Zoom fatigue set in quickly. Teachers felt disconnected and distanced from their students. They felt unprepared to work from home, from one location in front of the screen—a huge pivot from their largely active and movement-filled days of the classroom. Things that they could have influenced more easily in the classroom, like troubleshooting tech or addressing student wellbeing through smiles and high fives, became much more complicated—if not downright impossible.
It can’t be said enough: teachers moved mountains last spring to meet the needs of their students as best as possible. But it’s time to honor teachers with the quality of their working lives.
At the organization where I work, The Teaching Well, we partner with school systems to more-effectively support, retain and leverage the brilliance of their educators. We do this by providing tools for healthy dialogue, emotional regulation and mindful stress resilience through whole-staff professional learning opportunities and one-to-one coaching sessions with educators—including front office staff, school leaders and teachers.