Covid-19 contributes to our systems, with new variants popping up to prompt officials to review practices and issue mandates. Schools look at the numbers rise and wonder if they will recover. How can they continue to motivate staff and students? Will educators have rewards for the hard work they are doing this year? How will students recover from interrupted services and be motivated during challenging times?
Working with school leaders, I hear, feel and see the levels of exhaustion, frustration, and desire to “fix” everything. Reality sets in, and acknowledging the facts of the resources available to utilize are the critical barriers they face. Looking at the most valuable resource, staffing, and realizing pieces are missing.
Several years ago, before the pandemic, we predicted teacher shortages and administrative shortages as well. Education is not a field individuals were looking to go into as a career. The enrollments in these programs have been dropping. Now we have shortages, a pandemic, and a high need for support.
In a survey of 1,000 K-12 educators, changes were identified they thought would best support students’ learning as we continue to recover from the pandemic as follow:-Horace Mann Educators Corporation. (2021) “Closing the Learning Gap: How frontline educators want to address lost learning due to Covid-19.”
- 53% recommended to focus on fewer grade-level standards.
- 34% think schools need more paraprofessionals to provide support to struggling learners.
- 30% recommend more social-emotional learning resources to help students process the effects of the past year.
Strategies are utilized to help with staffing shortages. Some states are making accommodations to licenses and are working to approve non-traditional professionals to step into teaching. This is a short-term fix, and we need to build into our programs “grow your own” to elevate these shortages. The goal of the number of people to fill positions is critical. Current staff is taking turns to cover classrooms to assist and support the needs. Educators are exhausted.
Currently, the staff is working to help students recover from learning loss as they fight against the staff shortages. In a classroom, you could find the learning levels of students stretch across several grade levels. It is hard to help meet the needs of all these different levels, engage all learners, help to keep all motivated, and not let students disconnect because they see no hope. How can we help students?
- Move to student choice activities where they can see themselves in the work they are doing.
- Teach in deeper levels.
- Provide students with opportunities to set goals.
- Meet students where they are, not where you want them to be.
- Do not talk down, but talk up. Students will rise if you start them with high expectations and believe in them. You begin with talking down; they will not increase even if they can.
Every day is an opportunity to share with others. Motivate daily! There are many different ways to motivate, and I have not found a magic wand that works on everyone, so you have to try other things to see what works for an individual or group.
In teaching and learning, I have always found the reward in doing them. Some people need more than a feeling as a reward. Many would like to see themselves as the Teacher of the Year, Principal of the Year, Student of the Month, and so many other individual awards you can receive.
The rewards we look for as educators are children’s eyes as they finally solve the math equation they have been working on today. The students look when their name is called as their essay was selected as the winner in the scholarship contest. The excitement when the robot the students built takes its first step. So many moments we get to share as the students share their learning journey with us.