Yoga, help lines, virtual social hours: Strategies to support staff through COVID-19

Dive Brief:

  • As coronavirus virus-related school closures continue to disrupt the nation’s education system, even veteran teachers are feeling pressure, exhaustion and stress — but educators like Michele Lew, an assistant principal at Arcadia High School outside of Los Angeles, have developed unconventional solutions to support staff.
  • Lew writes for Edutopia that her school implemented a staff help line manned by marriage and family therapist trainees, and it also offers drop-in 30-minute self-care and wellness sessions.
  • When staff reported missing the social connections that naturally occur on school grounds, Arcadia initiated biweekly virtual social hours. In addition, it partners with a middle school counselor who is a yoga instructor to hold weekly virtual classes, and teachers are lead through mindfulness and breathing exercises at the start of each staff meeting.

Dive Insight:

Distance learning is a new skill for many teachers, and it leaves many of them with all the stress of being a first-year educator. It’s an overwhelming career change in an already overwhelming year. 

Professional development sessions give teachers opportunities to target specific skills they may be lacking, such as learning how to use platforms like Flipgrid, and creating weekly goals can allow them to reach small benchmarks without feeling overwhelmed. Remaining mindful of teachers’ workloads is also critical, experts says, especially because virtual learning platforms can have a steep learning curve.

Teacher motivation and buy-in are other keys to success in distance learning. Marlon Styles, superintendent of Middletown City School District in Ohio, urges administrators to make sure teachers are taking care of themselves and having fun with their students. From communitywide fight songs to virtual fire drills, Styles told Education Dive administrators should rely on the positive school culture that predated coronavirus to find ways to make school fun even when it’s at a distance.

A survey conducted in the spring indicated 81% of teachers felt “somewhat” or “extremely” uncertain, 77% felt stressed, 75% felt anxious, 74% felt overwhelmed, 60% felt sad and 54% felt lonely.

However, teachers also reported more confidence in their abilities to adjust to distance learning, with 77% reporting feeling capable, 66% feeling motivated and 61% feeling confident. To deal with stress, teachers said turning to friends, going on walks and having conversations with peers. Only 15% said they were pressured from their administrators, with pressure more frequently coming from within.

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