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Teachers Supporting Teachers Working from Home

January 22, 2021 - 3 minute read

Woman teaching a class

As a teacher, I almost always enjoy the collegiality of the teacher’s break room.  Sharing stories, recipes and jokes help us to understand each other on different levels and give us a fresh perspective for stepping back into the classroom. After the school closures and finding ourselves working from home, I soon noticed that most of the communication was from the top down.  I wondered how my fellow teachers were doing.  Some days were easy but other days always made up for it.  Was I the only one feeling so uncertain and confused?  I could reach out to a couple of friends, but I wanted to know how we were doing as a faculty.  

I decided I needed a break room.  I set up a group chat, through our campus email, consisting of only teachers.  I unofficially call it the virtual teacher’s lounge.  We ask each other questions, share strategies, and make plans. Sometimes we share frustrations.  And that’s when it really matters.  We support one another with encouraging words and a bit of levity (and usually some good advice).  We removed two teachers from the chat when they left the school.  One teacher removed herself over the summer but joined in again when school started back up.  And we excitedly welcomed our new teacher.  It has all been very casual, but it serves a purpose.  It is part of our new virtual campus.  

Some considerations for setting up a supportive group chat for your campus:

    1. Consider size and inclusion.  Our campus only has 11 teachers.  If I were at a larger school, I might consider a department or grade level group chat, and I would share the idea with the other departments so that they could form them as well.  Whichever configuration you choose, be sure to include everyone in that department or level.  If they remove themselves from the chat, that won’t harm morale like someone being forgotten.  Do not assume that someone will not want to participate. You may be pleasantly surprised.
    2. Set the tone right away with an explanation that it’s a teacher space to share ideas.  Don’t worry about negativity, since everyone in the group sees every conversation, it has been my experience that the conversations, although casual, are relevant and beneficial.

“If you can’t find the tech dinosaur on campus, . . . it may be you!”  a voice mused in my head.  While struggling with one technology after another, for my distance learning designs, I found myself sending troubleshooting emails at least once a day.  Other times, I’d be the recipient for various requests.  Things that I found easy, that I’d been doing for some time, others were just considering.  I realized that we were all functioning at very different levels with educational technology.  But we all had something to offer. As a group, we had quite a bit of knowledge to share, but who has time for training one another?  So, I set up a second support for our teachers on campus: A Google Classroom for Teachers.  I invited every teacher to be a “teacher” in the class, rather than a student.  Instead of “assignments,” we post “announcements,” which consist of short video tutorials or other materials, for our colleagues to peruse.  Some are short and simple like, “How to Email your Entire class” or more complex like, “How to use Nearpod.”  It’s organized in chronological order, so other sites such as WordPress or a more versatile Google Site might be a more sophisticated choice, but this took very little time to set up.

What sets this apart from doing our own Google searches on the topic?  
Since the posts come from teachers on campus, we all have the same technology and district filters with which to work.  The ideas and tools are tested in our environment and then shared.  Teachers have the opportunity to go down a path that someone else has already traveled.  Which makes it that much more time-efficient and more likely that they’ll be able to find help down the road when they need it.  It does not require anything more from teachers.  It’s there waiting to be accessed, asynchronously.  It’s a virtual bookshelf, for any teachers to make a contribution or to find inspiration.

Between the teacher-to-teacher chats and the video How-tos, I’m finding a new appreciation for teachers’ learning communities, in any format.

Linda Lopez is a high school mathematics teacher leader in the high desert and a member of the Concordia University Irvine doctoral program cohort 10. 

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