How to Support Teachers Working From Home: Advice for School Leaders

by | Dec 2, 2020 | Blended Learning and Virtual Learning, School Leaders, Teacher Professional Development

It is easy for distance learning to truly feel distant, not only for students but also for teachers and school leaders. This week, we would like to answer some FAQs about how school leaders can provide adequate support for teachers working from home.

How should school leaders communicate with teachers when working remotely?

As we work through the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, everyone needs a little extra support. Principals and other school leaders must keep in touch with teachers frequently (at least once per week) and consistently (with a predictable schedule) to help teachers understand and meet expectations. We recommend scheduling a weekly check-in with your teachers, either individually or in small groups, to provide feedback and support for their work.

Michigan Virtual suggests that school leaders “use consistent, clear measures” to evaluate teachers’ performance through virtual learning. Let teachers know ahead of time how you will evaluate their performance, and provide prompt, regular feedback to help them adjust to new circumstances. Give teachers guidelines for collecting, analyzing, and using data to boost student achievement through distance learning.

Additionally, school leaders should provide job-embedded virtual coaching support. ASCD shared a case study demonstrating how virtual coaching may work for your team. A school leader, acting as a virtual coach, sits in on a virtual lesson with a teacher. The leader is able to provide feedback during the lesson, helping the teacher improve their instruction in real-time. Through this process, school leaders can help teachers evaluate their own performance, set goals for future lessons, and create plans for future check-ins.

How can school leaders facilitate collaboration in virtual learning?

Teachers may not be able to meet with their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in-person anymore, so school leaders must facilitate new opportunities for collaboration. School leaders should:

  • Organize virtual PLCs based on grade level and/or subject area so teachers can support one another, share ideas, and work together to support students’ individual needs.
  • Develop a mentoring program — Michigan Virtual recommends “[providing] teachers newer to online learning with a more seasoned mentor who can help guide them.”
  • Set up a chatroom that allows teachers to interact with you and their colleagues throughout the day for on-demand support.

What types of professional development do teachers need to facilitate virtual learning?

Although teaching remotely may be new for your team, virtual schooling is not a new concept in general. We can look to virtual school leaders for advice on how to help teachers make the transition from in-person classes to virtual instruction. A 2005 article from THE Journal written by a virtual school principal who gives a few examples of the professional development teachers need during this transition:

1. Teachers need to learn how to support each student’s “learning coach.”

Teachers often act as students’ instructors and coaches within a regular classroom setting to help keep them motivated through each learning unit. However, when students are learning from home, teachers must partner with learning coaches such as parents and other guardians who are responsible for keeping students on track with their remote learning. Professional development is needed to train teachers on how to work with and support at-home learning coaches.

2. Teachers need to learn how to personalize the curriculum.

When school takes place in-person, teachers must instruct a whole class. However, virtual learning platforms allow teachers to truly personalize each learning unit for every student. Teachers need professional development to learn how to use virtual tools that support individualized learning.

3. Teachers need to learn how to use your school’s learning management system and virtual learning platforms.

It is always important to provide professional development that trains teachers on how to use your school’s available technology. However, this is especially important when teachers are expected to virtually perform almost all of their job functions. Schedule time to train teachers on how to use virtual communications systems with parents and students, virtual grading and reporting tools, and other vital features of your school’s learning management system.

4. Teachers may need coaching to become better communicators.

In virtual learning environments, teachers cannot rely upon nonverbal communication factors, such as facial expressions and gestures, to convey their thoughts to students, parents, and colleagues. School leaders should consider professional development that trains teachers to improve their written and oral communications. For example, Michigan Virtual suggests helping teachers improve their email communications, discussion posts, and writing tone.

How should school leaders plan and engage with professional development?

Your teachers, support staff, and even school leaders need targeted professional development to meet students’ needs through virtual learning. Michigan Virtual explains, “Technology, pedagogy and best practices in online teaching are changing very rapidly, so it is crucial that administrators at all levels [emphasis added] participate in professional development[.]”

The Center for Student Achievement Solutions specializes in developing customized professional development plans for school leaders and teachers. We provide targeted professional development in areas including:

  • PLCs, mentorship, and job-embedded coaching
  • Distance learning best practices
  • Student achievement and equitable learning environments

Schedule a call with the Center for Student Achievement Solutions to learn how we can partner with you to customize a professional development plan to meet your team’s specific needs.

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