Coronavirus School Closures: How School Districts Can Help Their Schools and Teachers

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Can school district administrators help their teachers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic school closures? Yes. This article lists three primary ways in which a school district can support and empower its employees during this hard time.

Help from Administrators

In times of struggle, everyone looks to the person above them for help, support, guidance, and strength. In the military, those people in the top ranks, the generals, are the ''go-to guides'' for how to get things done. In the school system, teachers and staff look to the school board, district-wide administrators, and school administrators to help see them through the hard times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented school closures, it is truer than ever that teachers and staff on the front lines need their leaders to be strong and offer good support and guidance.

Here are a few tips for how school districts can help their schools and teachers through this trying time.

Communication

Great communication is imperative in this situation. It is understood that rules and regulations are changing frequently, but it is still important that every change is communicated to teachers and staff as quickly as possible. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge teachers have, the better they will be able to deliver appropriate services to the millions of students and parents impacted by this crisis.

Communication should be:

  • Clear
  • Brief (if possible)
  • Frequent
  • Offer an opportunity for receivers to clarify the information

This communication could be in the form of emails, updates on a district website, or through a call-in recorded messaging service. Consider having a manned call center for teachers and staff to be able to call in for clarification and assistance during the crisis. Additionally, create a FAQ section on your district website and compile the most frequently asked questions and answers in a single easily accessible place for all staff and parents of students.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the name of the game if you expect teachers to be able to deliver great content from home. Do your teachers have the supplies they need to be able to accomplish the task you've set for them? If not, do everything in the district's power to get those resources to the teachers now.

Teachers will likely need access to virtual meeting equipment (such as web cameras). They may need whiteboards or touch screen laptops in their homes. While some teachers may already be set up to provide consistent and strong online courses, many others may not have the necessary materials and will need to source that equipment from somewhere.

If you cannot supply teachers with what is needed, allow teachers to purchase items for reimbursement. In this case, it is really important that teachers be given a pathway to be reimbursed quickly. Also, remember that the equipment purchased will be used for the benefit of your students and will be returned to the school system when this situation is resolved.

Compassion

This is a hard time. It is stressful. Your teachers are not just working hard to learn a new way to deliver their curriculum to their students, they are also dealing with the crisis in their personal lives.

Your teachers may have their own children at home, so some may be trying to teach other children online while their own children are needing help to learn at home.

Your teachers are likely worried about their own safety and that of each of their students. These are real stressors above and beyond the normal stresses that a teacher faces every day.

Show compassion to your teachers. Allow some flexibility and autonomy in the way they proceed with school protocol and decisions.

Finally, consider organizing virtual counseling sessions for teachers who feel overwhelmed with everything going on. The counseling options you might provide could be:

  • Professional licensed counselor contracted to be available to your staff virtually
  • Management/staff/administrators sharing the role of offering guidance and lending an ear to help support teachers and staff
  • Small group chats for teachers to lean on each other in this time of great stress

The delivery of counseling/emotional support could be through online video or audio calls and/or a manned hotline style access for live help to support them through this very difficult time.

Summary

Teachers and staff are working hard to help your school district's students remain successful through the unprecedented school closures due to COVID-19. It is important that the district support them through their efforts. Communication is the first important tool to helping support teachers, followed closely by maintaining a great infrastructure from which they can work. Finally, finding a way to offer over-stressed and overwhelmed teachers and staff virtual access to counseling will go far in giving each of them added assurances that the school district supports them in their efforts.

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