As the school year draws to a close, AVI-SPL wants to help your teaching staff and administration stay connected and focused during this difficult time. Our Together We Are series about online learning from home offers helpful ideas and resources. Read all Together We Are posts.
By now, teachers across the country have been figuring out how to prepare and teach lessons, assign homework, grade it, and provide feedback — all while working from home. Add to this the effort it takes to understand the supporting collaboration technology, and it’s easy to imagine that nerves can quickly be rattled. In previous posts, we’ve tried to help by giving advice for online teaching from home and engaging with students.
Today, let’s look at ways principals can provide feedback, address performance issues, and resolve conflicts among their teachers and administrators. Here are a few tips for successfully managing and supporting your staff and ensuring that they are able to provide the high-quality learning experience that students deserve and their parents expect.
Be Transparent: By letting your teaching and administrative staff know what’s expected of them, you’ll be setting standards of performance. Those expectations can help ensure students are receiving the quality education they deserve, and they’ll form the basis for one-on-one evaluations and resolving areas of disagreement. For example, teachers and admins will want to know policies for taking attendance or how summer teaching may unfold for students that require additional help in order to advance to the next grade level. If they’re lacking in technology support, they will expect updates on when the situation will change. During your check-ins (which we cover below) and in emails, you can keep them apprised of the latest developments with status reports.
Check in daily: Teachers across all levels of education are struggling with a situation that could be perceived as more stressful than managing students in the classroom. Classwork has become homework, and instead of being able to grade that homework by assigned due dates, teachers are facing the reality that the only due date that matters for students is the end of the school year.
In this remote situation, teachers and administrators may inadvertently deliver contradictory information to their students, which could upset the students and their parents, and cause rifts among your staff.
For these reasons, schedule daily video calls that recur at the same time each day and send meeting invites so that teachers and admins can save them to their calendars. During these team calls, you can deliver the transparency mentioned above by providing updates on policy changes. For their part, your staff can let you know what’s working, where they need help, and what questions they have. Microsoft Live Events is one option for delivering announcements to a large group while also being able to field individual questions. Upvotes on the questions will let you know which ones you should prioritize.
Have virtual office hours: Not every teacher is comfortable teaching virtual classes. Some may be unfamiliar with delivering what’s expected of them, or they may be unsure of the video conferencing and unified communications tools that the corporate world takes for granted. Send a meeting invite that lets your staff know that you will be available online throughout the day if they have questions, recommendations, or need to vent. Encourage teachers to reach out to you, and keep each appointment to a limited duration so that you can have face-to-face time over video with as many teachers as need to speak to you. Update your online status so they know if you are busy in a meeting or temporarily away from your desk.
Follow best practices for resolving conflict: In our post on resolving conflict during remote work, we include tips for planning and hosting video calls that address performance issues and conflicts that may arise among employees. That advice can also be applied to teachers, administrators, and other support staff. I recommend you read the post, but I can quickly summarize what you should do in your education setting:
- Gather facts about the conflict: Meet with each person involved in a dispute separately over video to get their side of the story. This may include parents and students who have a complaint or need to resolve an issue.
- Set the ground rules for the meeting: At least a day before the meeting, send an email to the group and host one-on-ones with the involved parties where you explain how the conflict resolution meeting will run. You’ll also share your expectations of behavior and protocol. Explain that these rules are being administered in fairness to all involved.
- Make sure all participants can see and hear each other: Seeing reactions and body language is important for you, and it’s important for those expressing themselves. Microsoft Teams will display up to four videos at one time. If you have more than four participants, you’ll see the video of the active speakers. In our post about online learning best practices for educators, you’ll find advice how to prepare yourself and your home office for a video experience.
Teaching can be a difficult, at times thankless profession. Having to perform its duties from home may add to the stress for some teachers, causing conflicts among them and perhaps a struggle to deliver the quality they are capable of in a live, in-person classroom. By following these tips, you can help mitigate issues and be proactive in addressing them.