Supporting Teachers Online

Supporting Teachers Online

With your school closing and the stay-at-home order in effect, what is a coach to do?

Many coaches find their roles changing during this time. Instead of implementing traditional structured professional development and creating coaching plans, many coaches notice themselves responding to teachers’ individual needs, requiring skills that are outside their normal role.

Coaching and providing PD can be a little different during a time like this. The focus should be helping teachers where they are. Not all teachers are in the same place when it comes to creating digital lessons and curriculum. Often, teachers that are rock stars in brick and mortar classrooms feel much less confident in an online setting. Teachers can’t gauge their kids’ reactions to know if they understand content; the worry about whether their students are eating and sleeping is wearing on them; and they are working much longer hours. They can begin to feel much less confident, even if they shouldn’t. Teachers need support more now than ever.

Coaches do not have to know all of the answers. They are here to build relationships, share resources, and encourage growth.

Dr. Melissa Jackson

As a coach, you do not need to hold all the answers. Instead, do what you already do best—build relationships. You know your teachers. Identify those finding success in their new roles and leverage them as a resource. Share teachers’ successes with others. Continue to encourage teachers and build a positive morale. For the moment, you may just put out fires and share resources, but remember that firemen are our first line of defense and they are very valuable. You may not know all of the answers, but you definitely know how to connect people. Connect teachers with those that can help them.

How Can Teachers Find Connection and Avoid Isolation?

How Can Teachers Find Connection and Avoid Isolation?

Have you ever felt lonely in a room full of people? For teachers, this can be a daily occurrence. Despite the fact we spend our workdays surrounded by students in our classroom and work in schools with other teachers and staff, teachers can still feel very isolated.

Teachers spend the day working in individual classrooms, often with the door closed to avoid disruptions or interference. We work alone with individual student groups and can have little available time to talk with our colleagues about our teaching practice. While some may feel a sense of autonomy in this setup, others find it very isolating.  

Researchers Seyyed Ali Ostovar-Nameghi & Mohsen Sheikhahmadi (2016) found that “isolation is likely to result in burnout and feelings of extreme helplessness.” When feeling the effects of burnout, a teacher may withdraw and feel less job fulfillment. This greatly affects our attitude about our job which bleeds over into the classroom, affecting the learning environment for students. This has even led to a rise in teacher attrition rates over the past decade (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017).

So when teachers are experiencing this, how do we break out of it? How do we find connections with other adults and avoid feelings of isolation?


While teaching can often feel like an individual sport, it should be a team adventure. As Johnson, Reinhorn, & Simon (2016) explained “as [teachers] collaborate, teachers with different skills, areas of expertise, and levels of experience may find that teams not only support them in curriculum development, lesson planning, and pedagogy, while also offering professional relationships that sustain them and improve the instructional capacity and professional culture in their school”. As teachers, we should look for opportunities to work together on lesson plans, give feedback and ask questions. We should keep our doors open, literally or metaphorically, inviting other teachers to visit our classrooms and find moments to visit other teachers’ classrooms. We should  ask each other for help and ideas on problems we’re struggling with and share successes we’ve had in our classrooms.

Although these things are not always easy to accomplish—we have strict schedules, 100 kids to deal with, and a limited amount of resources—there is always a way. When physical proximity, time, and scheduling prohibit us from doing these things the traditional way, sharing video and making virtual visits can be a great way to collaborate and keep ourselves in touch with other adults and professionals.

“Exemplary teachers search out those who can give feedback that is critical to their development. They do not shy away from feedback that may be contradictory to what they believe. They take in numerous responses, both qualitative and quantitative data, in order to grow and enhance their teaching practices.”

Jon Konen (2018)


Connecting with other teachers can require actively watching for opportunities. Damon Weinhold, a teacher who shared his experiences of building a network of professional support said, “I think educators who succeed and stick out actually actively recruit these professional circles.” Teachers can make deliberate choices to create moments to connect. Eating lunch outside of the classroom can provide time to see other colleagues. Check in with your colleagues and share how the day is going. Moving conversations beyond small talk and discussing subjects of great importance opens up opportunities to connect and support one another. Attending extracurricular activities, like school plays or the big game, can offer a chance to see other adults while also supporting students. Even continuing education could be planned with colleagues. Make connecting with others an intentional part of your day—you deserve it!

The fundamental nature of reality is relationships, not things”

Senge et al. (2012)

Humans have a deep need to connect with other humans, and a lack of connection has a negative impact. Have you experienced professional isolation? What ways have you found to overcome it and create connections with others?