The first thing I noticed when we got back to school after remote learning was that my conversations with the teachers got really intense.
As a trainer, my most important role is as a listener. The best part of my work is to witness the deep self-reflection that changes attitudes and leads to instructional changes. So I listened as teachers reflected on their online teaching time, and in my listening I heard a general desire for truth and a desire to return to the status quo. As one teacher told me, “I didn’t really do it before the epidemic and I don’t want to go back to it.”
Teachers were affected by teaching online, in person or through hybrids. Another teacher, Maria, admitted that she was angry and bitter at the end of last school year. Her students stopped turning on their cameras and stopped responding despite their best efforts to keep them busy. She knew there were a lot of reasons why her students didn’t show up in class (which had nothing to do with her). But, without seeing faces or hearing voices, her empathy diminished. She felt disconnected and frustrated. She said she thinks a machine is only working for students. This I had heard over and over again. We have all experienced similar incidents of inhumanity in our work as teachers.
But of course you are not the only teacher. We are mothers of many school-age children, parents of students with special needs who need a high level of help, individuals with anxiety disorders have been raised by the worldwide concern of pandemics. We are human too. As we transform our schools into a welcoming space for students, we must make them a humane place for teachers to work as well. We can’t forget that we saw each other’s humanity – shared a universal human experience – and then returned to business as usual. We must make schools human again.
So how do we do that? In my role as a listener and trainer, I have heard what teachers want. This is what they are asking from their colleagues, their administrators and their communities.
Avoid toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how bad the situation is, we should all have a positive mindset about it. Toxic positivity is not optimism. Toxic positivity denies or denies how difficult things can be. This message is specifically for administrators.
To humanize schools, listen and validate the real feelings that teachers bring to campus, even the negative ones. Don’t talk about “moving on” when the epidemic is still raging in the world and in your mind. Just don’t say you have to have a positive attitude towards your students. Instead, give us real support, such as implementing school policy consistency and loyalty, creating a schedule that allows for collaboration, and ensuring that the assessment is meaningful. Follow your promises and create a trust-based work environment ठेवा trust each other’s abilities and trust each other’s commitment to our students.
Give teachers the professional development they want. Throughout the 2020-21 academic year, the instructional support team at my school site conducted regular business education sessions twice a week. Sometimes it was our agenda and sometimes it was a virtual open office for teachers to show up and ask questions.
I heard what teachers want. Although these sessions were optional, we consistently saw the majority of teachers show up to learn. I do not adhere to the fundamentalist ideology that categorizes teachers as “participating in professional development” and “not participating in professional development”, but rather adheres to the reference principle as discussed in Todd Rose’s “End of Average”. ”
The reference principle asserts that “individual behavior cannot be explained or predicted without a specific situation, and the effect of a situation cannot be specified without a person experiencing it.” In other words, the question is not “How do we get teachers to participate in professional development?” But instead, “How can we create a context in which everyone will want to engage in vocational education?” To feel human in your workplace, we all need to feel like we have choices and trust teachers and are able to make those choices.
Systematic change, not “self-care”. You need to stop telling tired and frustrated teachers to “take care of themselves” when they are really asking for systematic change. Yes, teacher compliment gifts are great, but I’ll take a good flow chart, a clearly defined procedure, or any day-to-day problem-solving protocol on a branded water bottle. When teachers communicate that they feel “burned out”, they often express real frustration. Researcher Doris Santoro, author of “Demoralized,” explains this demoralization. Occurs When teachers “face consistent and pervasive challenges in applying the values that motivate their work.”
When I talk to teachers, I often ask, “What makes you tired?” Their answers are almost never about the students. They are about bureaucracy: inconsistent communication, policies that don’t make sense or activities that they are never expected to implement. You may be able to cope with burnout with some self care methods, but you can’t fight morality with a giftcard or spa day. We need to pay close attention to our school systems and practices – and be willing to change things for the better.
Go beyond “check-in” to create a culture of relational trust. We cannot ask teachers to build strong positive relationships with their students without trying to do so among school staff. In fact, academic leadership experts say Culture always plays a role in school success or failure. And research suggests that building trust in employees makes them more successful when it comes time to implement best practices over time.
If we want teachers to show for their students, we need to build collective trust. It can start with getting to know each other, but it must be a continuous, concerted effort.
Last year, I helped coordinate the opportunities for mourning counseling sessions led by mental health professionals and a meeting time dedicated to reflecting and accepting emotions. Then a colleague said to me, “I think we need to have fun together again.” So, I took on a new role that I like to think of as my school’s “Cruise Director of Fun”. One teacher called me Julie McCoy from my school (I had to watch the reference to the 70’s TV show “The Love Boat.”). I organized virtual fun hours where we played trivia and sang karaoke. I was thrilled to see a team of maintenance staff and coaches come along with the 10 most recent Sexiest Men Alive, according to People magazine. This kind of redundancy can feel just like that, redundancy. But in the end, taking the time to have fun together builds trust and creates a more humane workplace.
Finally, in order to make schools human again, we must promise to be human on a personal level, in the workplace. We must put our whole being to work and become human in front of our colleagues and students.
The picture at the top of this article is a 1997 band photo of my husband who is now a high school English teacher. During the spring of 2021, you return to individual classes once a week for a student advisory period, a non-academic class that is designed to provide space for relationship building. He thought it might be a good idea to take ninth grade students on a school tour and reintroduce them to the school building. To make things a little more interesting, he hid several copies of that band photo along the way. If students find one, they can keep it. It was his way of interacting with his students, “I was once in ninth grade. That would be fine. The students liked it and asked for more copies.
Now, he gives randomly as a reward. Being a man at work means – acknowledging our relationship. There are many inhumane workplaces. We cannot allow schools to be that space.