This is a how-to article from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor describing clever ways to make remote teaching work. A recommended read if your remote program isn’t working as you’d hoped:
Tips for incentivizing your teachers team while working remotely
This is all the more significant in an educational context, because teams of teachers are in turn responsible for looking after large groups of students who need to be ushered through the twists and turns of remote learning with aplomb.
Providing the right incentives in the right way is a solution that can help overcome remote working burn-out and general disgruntlement brought about by the current climate. The following tips should help you to come up with an effective strategy to ultimately bolster job satisfaction and improve performance.
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Implement an incentive program
To start off with, it is worth formalizing your approach to incentivizing teachers in a remote working scenario through a program which has been developed specifically for this purpose.
While this will require a little work upfront to set the wheels in motion, once everything is in place it will become perpetually beneficial and continue to pay dividends as time passes.
You can get some program ideas from here to give you a little initial guidance. It covers everything from programs focused on rewarding the most loyal team members for their long service, to programs that encourage teamwork and collaboration between individuals and groups alike.
Most importantly, the program you select needs to be viable for those working remotely; it is no good offering perks like a gym membership to someone who will be unable to make use of it for the foreseeable future. If in doubt, implement an incentive program on a trial basis and ask for feedback from the teachers who participate to see if it can be improved or scrapped, depending on its impact.
Give them all the tools they need
There is nothing more frustrating for a remote worker than to find that the hardware, software or network connection they are using to fulfil their duties is not up to scratch. This is all the more relevant to educators, who will need to be leading lessons, seminars and one-on-one study sessions on a daily basis.
If they know that every day will be an uphill struggle as they fight to get the better of the inadequate technology that they have at their disposal at home, it is easy to see how they will become dispirited, and thus have less reason to pour their all into their job.
On the other hand, if you ensure that they have all of the tools they need to thrive while working remotely, not just scrape by, then everything else will click into place and become so much easier.
It is a good start to give them a suitably modern laptop that can cope with the rigor of running Zoom meetings, wrangling Teams catch-ups and interfacing with the cloud-powered educational resources that are vital to remote learning at the moment. However, you can also incentivize their engagement by covering the other costs that they will be accruing during this time, such as paying for a faster and more stable internet service.
This is all about demonstrating that you appreciate and understand the hurdles that teachers’ teams will need to leap over whenever they are working remotely, and moreover are prepared to do something to support them in this process.
Seek their input & provide recognition for achievements
It is difficult to know what problems remote workers are dealing with, let alone take steps to mitigate or rectify them. So rather than relying on guesswork or trial and error, it is clearly a good call to actively ask teaching teams to tell you what is causing them strife, or suggest what steps could be taken to incentivize their work even further.
There are a few ways to go about receiving this feedback, and while it might seem efficient to just call a meeting with everyone participating and get it all out of the way at once, it is necessary to remember that not all employees will feel comfortable contributing in this context.
The more successful approach involves ensuring that regular contact is kept between managers and team members on a one-on-one basis. Even if checking in frequently does not throw up problems to solve every time, teachers will value the opportunity to have this interaction and will also feel like their work is making a difference if you highlight any successes they have had or milestones they have passed.
A combination of an open door policy for feedback and a proactive approach to recognizing the hard work remote teams are putting in will go a long way to boosting morale even in the most trying of times.
Furthermore, you can use the suggestions to tweak the things that are creating friction, rather than leaving them unaltered and continuing to wear away at an employee’s psyche.
Mix things up with online learning resources & special events
One of the unique struggles for teachers when working remotely is keeping their own students interested in the courses they are participating in, and it is certainly the case that maximizing engagement is far harder outside of a bricks and mortar classroom environment.
Keeping the schedule varied and adding special events to go with the wealth of resources that are at the fingertips of teachers and students alike should serve to satisfy the needs of all parties.
From webinars with mixed groups to stop things getting stale, to full blown online events that include special guest speakers, who are recognized experts in their fields, there are lots of ways that teams of teachers can be supported and incentivized through the appropriate use of these functions.
Another benefit of doing this is that it will give teachers some much needed breathing room during their packed schedule. Being in charge of virtual lessons for extended periods is so intense that it can be very draining, so anything that can alleviate this will be welcomed.
Make sure they do not feel under pressure to get involved in everything
Last but not least, you need to be sensitive to the fact that if teachers are working remotely and spend entire days interacting with students and colleagues in a virtual environment, they may not want to stick around even longer for post-work get-togethers and the myriad other events and happenings that are quickly becoming the norm across lots of industries.
Preserving the work-life balance is harder than ever if you do not need to leave the house to fulfil your professional role, so if team members know that they can log off, close their laptop and switch their brains off in the evening, rather than feeling obligated to stay involved in some extracurricular activity or other, they will be in a better mental state when they start work the next day.
There is no doubting that managing remote teams of teachers is a bit of a high wire act, and one which will inevitably involve the odd wobble and misstep from time to time. Being willing and able to adapt to new challenges and make changes is the best way to ensure everyone can cope.
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.