Teacher Appreciation Week
National Teacher Appreciation Week has special meaning in 2021 after a long year of disruption due to COVID-19. This week, we recognize and thank teachers for their immense impact on their students and communities.
It has been 11 years since I taught U.S. History in the high school classroom before becoming an administrator in charter and traditional public schools and districts. I saw firsthand the incredible skill and dedication teachers bring to their classrooms. I also saw the life-changing impacts teachers make on their students and communities.
When I think about my experience teaching, what sticks out most is the high level of planning, scrappiness, and emotional investment needed to do the job well. That’s why I’m encouraged yet concerned by how our teachers have stepped up and poured even more of themselves into their work during the pandemic.
In a 2013 Gallup poll, teaching tied with nursing as one of the most stressful occupations. Add in COVID-19, new expectations for virtual and socially distanced in-person teaching, and public scrutiny on school reopening timelines and you have a recipe for increased teacher stress and burnout.
A safe, healthy environment for teachers positively impacts their students, so all schools and districts must build systems of support for their teachers. One of the most important questions schools and districts must be able to answer right now is “How are our teachers doing?” One way to answer this question is to supplement annual listening programs with more frequent touchpoints.
Bi-weekly teacher well-being pulses are a timely way to gather clear, actionable feedback and understand teachers’ needs in the moment. When teachers see that their schools and districts are acting on their feedback, these frequent listening programs can also help increase trust across the entire school community.
3 ways to use teacher feedback
Here are a few tips and examples of the kind of questions education leaders can ask teachers.
Population and Frequency:
One of the largest hurdles schools face in launching frequent pulse programs is survey fatigue. To navigate this challenge, start with a full census survey of all teachers then move to 20% sampling every two weeks to engage teachers regularly without overwhelming them. It is critical to communicate that teachers will be sampled, so they don’t feel left out when they do not receive a survey.
Another strategy is to pair sampling with an “always on” mechanism, like a digital web intercept or static link on the school district website. This gives teachers who want to share feedback a consistent place to go to be heard, even if they aren’t in the sample.
Ask the right questions
Consider asking questions aligned to only the most important topics such as teacher well-being, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, school operations, and classroom experience. Here are a few examples of questions to ask:
- How stressed have you been feeling this week?
- How relaxed have you been feeling over the past few weeks?
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
- How connected do you feel to other staff members at your school?
- At this school, everyone can succeed to their full potential, no matter who they are.
- How satisfied were you with technology operations this week?
- How would you rate your school’s communication this week?
- How supported do you feel by your school?
- Overall, how are you feeling about teaching?
It’s important for schools to engage teachers on an ongoing basis. The best way for schools and districts to keep teachers engaged is to demonstrate that they are acting on the feedback:
- Report key findings and actions – Public reporting through open dashboards are one way to do this
- Additional ad hoc surveys – Gather more information after major process changes such as new virtual teaching protocols, professional development programs, or benefits changes to gauge response and reaction
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