Teachers need emotional support this school year

It’s not just students who are feeling stressed out during the pandemic--K-12 leaders should consider how to meet the social and emotional needs of their staff as well

At Hicks Canyon Elementary School in Orange County, Calif., students have been learning with digital devices since the Tustin Unified School District went 1:1 six years ago — so the shift to remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t as jarring as it could have been.

Yet, it was still a profound change.

“Teachers didn’t sign up for online learning,” says Assistant Principal Kristy Andre. “They signed up for in-person teaching.”

Transitioning to all-online instruction has been physically exhausting for teachers. But it has taken a huge social and emotional toll as well.

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“The shift happened very abruptly. We went into spring break and then never returned to school,” Andre says. Not only were teachers forced to give up their spring break to create online assignments, but they didn’t have a chance to talk through the shift to online learning and its implications with students beforehand.

Even though Hicks Canyon was a 1:1 school, teachers were at very different levels of proficiency in teaching with technology. “We had some teachers who didn’t know how to screencast or record a video of themselves,” Andre explains. “We were supporting them at the very basic level, showing them how to record video of themselves saying hi to their students or reading a story. And then we had teachers who were creating lessons on SeeSaw and Google Classroom that were rigorous and fun for students to complete. It spanned the entire gamut.”

Dennis Pierce