11 Virtual Ideas to Build a Support Network for Teachers
Whether in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom or distance learning this year, building a support network for teachers and maintaining morale is top of mind for a lot of administrators.
While there's no true substitute for next-door classroom buddies, early morning standups, after school activities, and all other communal and social aspects that come with working at a school, nurturing a virtual community can be enriching and beneficial to establishing a positive school culture and community. Check out the ideas below for ways to support your teachers and let them blow off some steam during this stressful time of year, all while socially distancing.
Coffee Breaks – have some teachers set up early morning or afternoon video conferencing sessions where they can join each other for a coffee or tea break. They can discuss work, exchange best practices, catch up, or just have that quick moment of face to face interaction.
Accountability Check-ins – Teaching, working, learning, and sometimes even managing the day to day during a pandemic is HARD. Managing stress is always important, but it can be easy to get swept up in this year’s back-to-school chaos. Have your teacher teams set up 15 to 30-minute video conferencing meetings weekly or bi-weekly where they can create a safe space for each other just check-in and see how everyone is doing, and if anyone needs some additional help or support. And be sure to set aside some time in any 1:1 meetings to ask your teachers how they are doing.
Lunch and Learns – Kind of like a longer coffee break, lunch and learns are a great way for your teachers to learn from each other. Schedule one per month and appoint one person each lunch and learn to be the featured speaker, where they can give a casual presentation about a successful lesson plan, classroom management technique or other sharable skill, and everyone else can take notes.
Panel Discussions – Admins understand that a stressor for the English department might not resonate in the Math department. Virtual panel discussions are a great way to have teachers across your school think outside the box. You can have the panel discussions be just one department or a representative of each department, discussing key issues they’re currently facing.
Mastermind Sessions – Is there that one teacher you keep hearing amazing things about in your school? Ask them if they’d be willing to highlight or share their creative ideas with their fellow teachers in a mastermind session!
Book Club – Educators know better than anyone that we are lifelong learners. Start an optional book club with your teachers where they can read together and discuss via Zoom. This can be professional development related, a book you know your students are loving right now, or just a best seller everyone has been dying to read. What ever strikes up a good discussion will work just fine!
Virtual Talent Show – We all know at least one friend or family member who has participated in one of these this year, why not do it with your teachers? Some of them might have some secret talents they’ve been dying to share with the world. It can be a fun, light-hearted way for your teachers to get a few laughs in and get to know each other better. Do you have shy teachers? Make this one a quick dance session instead!
Guided Meditation – is there a point in your day where you just need to stop everything and breathe for a second? Your teachers probably have those moments too. While it may not be something everyone can join up for every day, setting up a quick mental health moment, guided meditation, or yoga session will not only remind your educators that you care about them and understand what they’re going through, it will also help everyone to practice mindfulness and hopefully reduce stress.
Coworking Grading Sessions – Just like the day doesn’t end when the final bell rings, the grind doesn’t stop after the kids log off their virtual lessons. Suggest that your teachers set up some open video conference hours where they can sit and grade papers together virtually, like a digital teacher’s lounge. All you have to do is get on the same video call, turn your cameras on, and get to work. It’s social, they can share some of the funnier answers they get from students, and again, it’s a great, no pressure way for teachers to learn from each other and build connections.
Blooper Reel – It doesn’t matter what grade level you teach, there are bound to be some hilarious fails or instances where the students know a little more than you do and play a few tricks on their teachers. A video conference session where teachers can share some of their funnier (or frustrating) experiences will help them remember they still have each other.
Rose and Thorn – Along the line of the video chat blooper wheel, incorporate a “rose and thorn” into your meet ups. To kick off meetings, allow teachers to share their “thorn” of the week - things that are driving them crazy or just not working, and one “rose” – something they are grateful for.
Interested in learning more about how you can support your colleagues this year? Check out our post Understanding How Anxiety Can Impact Us & the Functioning of Our Teams to find out why managing mental health and wellness helps us build a stronger school community.