The report by the EdSurge research team “Education in the Face of Unprecedented Challenges” does not mince words in its conclusions about teacher well-being: “Breathing exercises are great, but they only get educators so far in dealing with the significant challenges that they face.” Teachers are feeling anxious and overwhelmed as they navigate the challenges of in person and virtual learning, and advice to breathe deeply or practice self-care feels woefully inadequate. Teachers report feeling unsupported, inadequately trained, and underresourced as they try to meet the social-emotional needs of students and address unfinished learning.
The Overwhelmed Teacher is Not a New Problem
Many of these issues were present before the pandemic. A study at Penn State University of both new and experienced teachers in 2008 found that both groups were significantly struggling with time management: “As myriad demands are placed on teachers, along with the increasing encroachment of testing on instructional time, they are simply overwhelmed. They need time—time to prepare, to teach, and to reflect.” The diverse demands on teachers’ time have made it difficult for even the most dedicated teachers to both meet students’ needs and achieve a sustainable work-life balance.
How Can Schools Support Teachers?
- Create an emotional intelligence charter. An emotional intelligence charter is a collaboratively constructed document that outlines how school staff wants to feel and what steps it will take to get there. Once a few hoped-for feelings are agreed upon, staff brainstorms concrete and realistic behaviors that would lead to each feeling. For example, if feeling valued is a priority, the charter could set guidelines for timely responses to virtual inquiries. This charter should then be treated as a living document as the needs of the school evolve.
- Focus on one new initiative at a time. Especially while teaching during the pandemic, teachers can feel overloaded by the onslaught of new tools and initiatives. School leadership can mitigate this by keeping the focus on just one new initiative or directive at a time and breaking it down into realistic and attainable steps.
- Strategically leverage technology. While new technology can feel overwhelming at first, a lot of EdTech tools have the potential to save time for teachers by automating processes or providing targeted supports that guide students towards desired objectives without teachers needing to micromanage each step. These new learning support systems should be accompanied by adequate training for teachers so that they feel confident using them and don’t see these tools as an additional burden.
- Differentiate professional development.Differentiation is the practice of recognizing students’ different learning needs and using a variety of strategies to meet those needs. Teachers themselves can benefit from administrators differentiating professional development. Leaders can facilitate this through intentionally grouping teachers (by experience level, subject, etc.) in professional learning communities (PLCs) or small groups to work through specific challenges or acquire new skills. Schools can also offer mentorship for new teachers, possibly even using grant funds to build a quality program.
Underlying these recommendations is the importance of listening to teachers. Teachers know their needs and goals and appreciate their concerns being considered in decision-making.
How Yup Can Support Teachers
Yup is a support tool that administrators can put in the hands of teachers to both extend their reach and lighten their load. Yup’s onboarding is simple, and it does not require any data entry or upkeep (meaning it won’t be an added item on teachers’ to-do lists!).
Yup’s high dosage tutoring also relieves teachers of the one-on-one, highly specific support that they are eager to provide but frequently do not have the time to offer. Yup’s highly-qualified tutors can support students during class when teachers have other students to attend to, as well as outside of school hours so teachers can focus on maintaining work-life balance.