5 Ways to Support Staff During Challenges

5 Jan

As we know, there’s more to education than pedagogy and curriculum. We’re currently seeing a system that is not only constantly working to improve instructional practices but also suffering from teacher shortages and a mental health crisis among students and educators alike. With all this to keep in mind, we are actively seeking ways to support staff and to motivate teachers as they continue to generously serve their students and their broader communities. 

Whether big or small, these steps can help build resilience and community, holistically support staff, and encourage teachers during challenging times. 

  1. Create learning groups. Teachers are life-long learners. They learn about their subject area, new technology, and a fresh group of students every year. 

Leverage their desire for knowledge with learning groups. These might meet during shared planning periods, after school, or in departmental work time, or they might even take the form of an opt-in “lunch bunch,” where teachers sign up to discuss certain topics of interest. The goal is to increase communication, share knowledge, and create a low-stakes learning environment that values progress and teacher expertise. 

  1. Establish support networks. Take these learning groups a step further by tapping into local and global communities for added support. 

Collaborate with your local parent-teacher association to identify specific ways to help teachers at different points in the year. Encourage teachers to share across departments—not just about subject matter but about their lives too. Consider how to tap into the global community of educators to help problem-solve, ideate, and work toward creative solutions. Establish a partner school in the district, across the state, or beyond.

  1. Minimize administrative tasks. For educators, spare minutes are snatched up by various administrative tasks throughout the day while their to-do lists remain long and under-attended.  

Reducing administrative tasks can help alleviate the burden on individual teachers and ensure a balanced, manageable workload outside of the classroom. Find ways to combine efforts, protect time for truly necessary work, and leave space in meeting agendas for sharing—maybe even lose the agenda altogether when it’s time to prioritize teacher mental health.

  1. Start an employee wellness program. Identify what teachers need most. This will vary from place to place, but knowing exactly what staff need to feel supported, motivated, and energized is vital. Conduct research, send out a poll, ask department heads to collect qualitative data, and use it to inform wellness initiatives for staff.

Consider PD opportunities that help staff reconnect to their purpose and build strategies for incorporating meaning and belonging into their classrooms and personal lives. 

  1. Close communication gaps. Surprises can be great, but in the classroom, they’re a headache. Running out of copies, internet going down, students forgetting supplies—sometimes we’re prepared for these unexpected moments, but most of the time they’re unwelcome hiccups in the day. 

Similarly, being out of the loop on decisions that impact daily work leaves teachers feeling powerless. Fight that with transparency. Let teachers know when changes are coming and, most importantly, why. Ask for their support. Invite their perspectives, and engage in meaningful dialogue where all participants feel seen and heard. 

A robust strategy for teacher support is vital, but you can start simply: thank you notes, emails of encouragement, or quick shout-outs in a staff meeting can go far in boosting teacher morale. Ultimately, finding ways to routinely express gratitude, appreciation, and understanding strengthens our school communities and uplifts our teachers during challenging times.