Instructors are in the middle of a tornado of unfamiliarity, question marks, and concerns while juggling heightened responsibility and pressure to perform. These factors can weigh heavily on their mental and emotional well-being and could adversely affect instructor retention. If instructors are under duress, it will naturally rub off on their students, negatively affecting the classroom culture and learning environment. If students notice that instructors are having a hard time, they may feel dejected, lose interest, or even drop out entirely.
To ensure the success of your students and your school, take measures to support your instructors. Below are a few tips to help you support your instructors and help cultivate a productive teaching environment as we head towards the fall.
1. Ensure instructors are fully versed in necessary software and technology
Odds are, your school implemented a piece of software to facilitate emergency remote learning. Whether you’re sticking with that technology for the rest of 2020 or are planning to add supplemental technology (i.e. engagement and assessment tools), prioritize the appropriate professional development and provide resources to ensure your instructors know the ins and outs of the technology. Because teaching online will be part of education moving forward, instructors must be competent with the technology. Give them the necessary training to not only deliver quality online teaching, but also help students who will inevitably reach out to them with questions about using the technology.
2. Share the load of supporting students
By providing students with technical support, guidance counseling, mental health resources, and more, you can take the load off instructors who most likely are the initial point of contact for students on a variety of issues. That way instructors can focus more on delivering their lessons and helping students with course material instead of wearing different hats.
3. Help instructors create productive work from home setups
A good way to support instructors and make them feel less stressed is helping them optimize their workspace at home. Because working from home will most likely not be a temporary measure, ensuring they have a productive work environment is key to their success. Provide tips like these for ergonomic work from home set ups. Or, take it further and provide a stipend to help them pay for the equipment they need (i.e. a supportive chair, standing desk, or WiFi booster) to perform at their best.
4. Communicate consistently with individual instructors
Because many schools are experimenting with new technology, different course designs, and unexpected work environments, consistent communication is vital to staying updated on instructors’ progress. Ask instructors about where they’re seeing success and what aspects need improvement. Consider even being “active” during an online session to observe for yourself how the course is running.
Consistent communication is also great for reassuring instructors that they’re not alone in navigating this new normal. Ask them how they’re doing mentally and emotionally, and if there’s anything you can do to help.
5. Use a messaging platform to keep everyone in the loop
A real-time messaging platform, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, can help bring instructors together while working remotely. Giving instructors the opportunity to message colleagues and contribute to conversations in real-time can be much less stressful and more inclusive than communicating over email.
Platforms like these include “channels”, which users can create and dedicate to conversations about specific topics. For example, there can be an “IT” channel, where users can discuss technical issues, or a “suggestions” channel, where users can submit ideas based on their experience to improve an aspect of the school that everyone can see. Other channels for employee shout outs or birthdays can also go a long way in creating camaraderie and show appreciation despite working remotely.
Instructors can also set their status to alert colleagues that they’re away from their device, helping them unplug from work, preserve their personal time, and rejuvenate.
6. Communicate clear procedures and expectations
In our new world of uncertainty, having some stability and predictability can go a long way. For instructors, understanding exactly what’s expected of them, what they’re priorities and responsibilities are, and how to handle different use cases can be extremely helpful when dealing with potentially stressful situations. With clear expectations and school policies, they can be guided through situations they might face instead of being unsure and aiming for “moving goalposts.”
7. Encourage instructors to establish a healthy work/life balance
In our new world of uncertainty, having some stability and predictability can go a long way. For instructors, understanding exactly what’s expected of them, what their priorities and responsibilities are, and how to handle different use cases can be extremely helpful when dealing with potentially stressful situations. With clear expectations and school policies, they can be guided through situations they might face instead of being unsure and aiming for “moving goalposts.”
8. Centralize information online
Because many aspects of education are changing rapidly and schools are constantly updating their practices and policies to adapt to the evolving landscape, having a central location for information is helpful for instructors to stay updated and in the loop. For example, a folder in Google Drive that any faculty member can access can provide a source of truth for instructors to reference. Whether that’s changes in ED compliance, technical troubleshooting, remote learning plans, different course materials etc., having an accessible folder with that information can help instructors navigate unfamiliar circumstances.
9. Ask students to write thank you notes
Many instructors choose their profession because they’re passionate about the success of their students. By asking students to send their instructors short messages of appreciation, you can help boost instructors’ morale and help them reconnect with their passion.
10. Treat instructors to dinner
Save your instructors some meal prep time by giving them credit to Uber Eats, Doordash, or a similar food delivery service. This is a great way to show your appreciation while giving them one less thing to worry about at home. They can order from their favorite restaurant, their kids will love it, and clean-up will be minimal.
Instructors are key to the overall success of your students and school. Keeping instructor morale high is not only vital to delivering strong courses and improving student outcomes, but also to retaining quality instructors. By making use of any of the tips above, you can support your instructors and help them navigate these unprecedented times a bit more easily.