Teaching is an emotional practice. Since the days of the one-room schoolhouse, teachers have focused their efforts and concerns on supporting their students and giving them what they need to achieve academically and become responsible citizens. Good teachers take a ‘whole student’ approach, understanding that the emotional and physical wellbeing of a student plays a critical role in academic achievements and student success. They train to identify at-risk individuals that need help or intervention and work with school staff to connect them with the right resources when needed. Unfortunately, many school systems have been less stellar in offering teachers a comparable level of support when they need it most.
During Covid, teachers had to ramp up their efforts so that children could experience the best level of academic support possible. With little notice, remote and hybrid learning required our teachers to:
Keep students engaged when they are not physically in the same room
Cultivate student self-direction and strengthen their ability to work independently, as they do more on their own and off-site
Quickly develop digital proficiency--often with outdated equipment and a poor supporting digital infrastructure
Support students who lack the infrastructure to connect digitally to the class
Perform without the daily interaction and exchange of ideas, teaching practices, and support from other teachers and school staff
1. Address Challenging Work Conditions
Teachers train professionally to teach. Many are tech-savvy, but some are not. Few are IT specialists or digital technology mavericks. None should spend their time chasing solutions for connectivity, software, or other digital infrastructure issues.
Invest in best-in-class technology
Build an adequate infrastructure, including up-to-date laptops, software, and tools
Hire a knowledgeable, responsive, permanent IT support team.
Make professional learning meaningful
2. Support Teacher Wellbeing
The 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher survey, published by RAND Corporation, shows that a much higher percentage of teachers reported frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general adult population. Many teachers worked significantly more hours each week to prepare and conduct classes and follow up with students individually outside of class hours. Some expressed worry for those students that would miss most of their meals if they were not at school. And, about one-third of U.S. teachers had school-age children at home that needed care and supervision.
Maintaining the mental health of educators is critical even as we come out of the Covid pandemic. School systems should be considering:
Teacher Access to Confidential Counseling Options
Teacher Mental Health Days (Either Required or Without Guilt)
Assistance in Accessing Primary and Back-up Child Care
3. Pay Teachers Appropriate Salaries
Teaching is described as a vocation by many. Yet it is astounding how low some teacher salaries are in light of what they give to our children and society as a whole. Some teachers take on additional part-time jobs so they can pay their bills. As we lose more teachers to retirement and other career paths that pay better, perhaps it is time to look at how we compensate our educators. If not for them, then for our children and society as a whole.
Teacher shortages are directly related to poor pay and support. The ability to pay decent compensation can directly impact the caliber of teaching staff a school can hire. A recent Newsweek article States That Pay Public School Teachers Most indicated a correlation between the top 20 higher-paying states and high graduation rates, higher student test scores than the national average, and schools rated among the best in the U.S.
4. Provide resources such as HELPme for Teachers
HELPme from STOPit Solutions creates linkages to support and resources for those in need through an anonymous, healing-centered interface. Teachers and staff can directly connect with local-based resources and ask for assistance using STOPit's fully configurable state-of-the-art reporting system. Whether it is for everyday needs such as food, transportation, clothing, shelter, medical, or mental health needs such as bullying, anxiety, or domestic violence, help is only a click away.
For an immediate crisis, teachers can connect directly to Crisis Text Line counselors from the HELPme app. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, high-quality anonymous text-based mental health support and crisis intervention volunteers to support people in their moments of need.
Teachers can also use HELPme to connect to e-Therapy. e-Therapy provides scheduled access to a licensed therapist through a seamless online experience. Solutions include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral and mental health, as well as assessments and diagnostics.
We need to support our teachers and empower organizations to create safer, better connected, and healthier learning cultures for everyone.