Educators and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a swift and significant challenge to educators. As an educational leader, you have not seen your staff, or anyone else from work for that matter, in weeks. Staff have been working and teaching from home for the first time, dealing with technology challenges, establishing and maintaining virtual contact with students and parents and clearly missing the collaboration and close contact with their colleagues. You are not sure what will happen with respect to school resuming, as that is beyond your control and influence. Staff are looking to leaders for guidance and answers.
As a leader, it can be a challenge to maintain your school community from a distance, which is the antithesis of the school environment and the personal and collaborative relationships which you have cultivated with all your staff. It has required a lot of creativity and new learning to keep the school community connected remotely while they are at home dealing with curriculum/teaching challenges, learning new technologies and developing virtual classrooms. Supporting staff has been of utmost importance as they build new communication systems with parents and students, work from home and deal with their own home situations while faced with the uncertainty of returning or not returning to school.
Build and Maintain Your Virtual Team
As your school’s leader you have found ways to stay in touch with staff. These may have included using the traditional methods such as telephone and email. You probably have also used new forms such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet, or Zoom to connect virtually to individuals, small groups, or for a full staff meeting. Have your virtual meetings been successful or frustrating? Does everyone have adequate bandwidth? How is the video and audio quality? Has everyone had an opportunity to contribute? If conducting a virtual meeting has been challenging check out this link from Ryerson University, “Conducting virtual meetings”, for some technical and logistical tips.
Working from Home
Everyone has had to deal with a feeling of disconnectedness, a lack/change of routine due to working from home and many different living/family arrangements during physical and social distancing. Staff have taken up the challenge and have adopted new ways of teaching and connecting with students and parents. Many leaders have established support for staff through daily routines such as virtual “office hours” or “open door hours” for staff, individual check-ins with staff and team meetings on whatever platform works best. In this uncertain time, the collaborative and mutually supportive relationships that have helped you in your leadership role can be a sounding board and help leaders to provide support for one another.
Mental Health and Stress
It is important to let staff know that this is not a normal time and that it is understandable to struggle with new demands and unusual circumstances. We must acknowledge that things will not be perfect and accept that anxiety is a reasonable response when we don’t know what the next steps are. This will be a particularly difficult period for some staff members – checking in with those staff more often and offering whatever support or information you have may help them navigate the situation more easily. It is just as important to be aware of your own personal stressors and to seek out whatever supports you need. Seeking support and establishing healthy practices in response to this situation is healthy and can have both short and long term benefits.
Clear and transparent information is important in any crisis. At times, because of the complexity and unusual nature of this pandemic, some information may be unclear and certain decisions will be beyond your control. Clarifying and providing clear, concise information and resources for staff where possible can ease some of the stress.
Resources for Educators
The following resources may be of interest to you as an educator. They assist with virtual teambuilding, working from home, and preserving mental health and wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- COVID-19 mental health resources prepared by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH);
- COVID-19 mental health tips for teachers prepared by weareteachers.com;
- How to support children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: resources for educators and parents prepared by School Mental Health Ontario;
- 19 virtual team building ideas prepared by Wild SF;
- Faculty and staff COVID-19 resources from Ryerson University.
HR Atlantic is proud to present weekly publications connected to COVID-19. Please feel free to contact us to further discuss this article or any concerns you or your business may be facing during these difficult times.
Yvette Blanchard Bob Andrews
Associate/Consultant, HR Atlantic Associate/Consultant, HR Atlantic
Published: May 2020
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