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The importance of being mindful of teachers’ wellbeing in your business strategy

The pandemic has had a huge effect on the social and emotional health of our teachers. Teachers did not sign up to be online tutors, and yet almost overnight they found themselves forced to use new technologies and teaching methods.

During the 2020/1 spring and summer terms, the hope of being able to return to ‘normality’ at the start of the new school year was relied upon by most as motivation to get to the end of a truly challenging educational year.

“Looking back to pre-pandemic, I remember feeling stressed about the demands of my job. I care - so I want to do it well. Looking at where I’m at now… I’m literally taking it day by day, I’ve tried to pre-empt the changes one too many times and so I’m just doing the best I can for me and my students.”

Even now, as we come to the end of the Autumn term, schools are dealing with rising student and staff absenteeism, constant testing and administration of a national vaccine roll out. At the time of writing, around 200,000 students are not in school due to COVID, be it due to self-isolation or illness from the virus itself.

As we reach yet another period of uncertainty, with the identification of a new variant, we need to ensure we are aware and empathetic to our audience’s needs. Our products and services need to make a difference now more than ever to their exhausting workload.

Respect the pressures on teachers and schools

In reaction to the pandemic teachers were forced to adopt technology in ways that were, in some cases, completely unfamiliar. Those who hadn’t grown up with technology found this exceptionally challenging; even teachers used to working with learning platforms and online learning tools struggled. 

Teachers watched as their students struggled with the abrupt move to online learning without being able to facilitate 1:1 support knowing that some students would ‘fall behind’ – they were left with a feeling of powerlessness as only so much could be done.

All of this has resulted in schools being forced to play ‘catch up’ whilst still helping their students through a period of change and unrest. Our industry needs to respect this. We all need to pull together to show support for each other.

Make the immediate benefits clear

We have a responsibility to ensure we provide quality products and services that help. They need to reduce teacher workload, efficiency, and ultimately result in better outcomes for staff and students.

Even during a time of ‘normality’, teachers are stretched for time and resources. Add the stressors of the pandemic and the capacity to contemplate the adoption of a new product or service, that would result in yet more change, is little to none.

If time-saving, or helping PPA* isn’t amongst your key benefits – we can tell you that your product will struggle to make it through the door. It needs to be easy to embed, as well as clearly evident how it will make life easier for students and teachers in the short-term. Teachers don’t want to be told to ‘persevere’ with something new and additional to their current exhausting workload with no guarantee that they will reap the benefits at the end.

Consider how you will support the school and teachers in adoption

Training and support is essential to make any product successful, but within schools there are a number of additional factors that need to be considered:

  • Financial costs of training
    The cost of training needs to be clear from the start and not hidden as an ‘add on’. If you want your product to be a success, you want it to be adopted and not end up as another technology that people ‘haven’t had the time’ to pick up. Training is absolutely essential in making this happen, consider including training as part of the core cost.

  • Being respectful of teachers’ workloads
    Do you need a full day’s training to adopt your product? Consider this in the world of schools where time is of the essence. Discuss with the team what’s manageable. Are other options realistic – for example, could you provide short burst training videos?

  • Quick response for technical support
    If the use of new technology is throwing up errors and not being responded to quickly, it’s unlikely to be used in schools. Teachers will want to limit disruption to their class as much as possible and want reassurance this will be the case.

  • Change management
    The solutions need to be of value to both the teachers and the students. It’s got to make a difference.

“We’ve been working flat out, often putting in 12-hour days, and unless absolutely necessary, the chances of us looking at new systems are zero. By example, we’ve just spent over £8,000 on a new reading scheme that we need for next year, and rather than look around, we went with something our head teacher used in a previous school. She knows it works, and how to use it and just didn’t have the time to look at alternatives.”

Word of mouth is your most powerful tool

For any successful product adoption you need buy in. Schools aren’t businesses, teachers don’t have time to conduct full evaluations and compare systems within the market. What they will do is ask their networks and look for examples of good and bad practice.

Give practical examples of how a product or service has had a positive impact on a teacher’s job – giving them space to develop in areas they’re passionate about, or a chance to catch their breath. How have the students benefited? Has there been an increase in class participation or even an impact on class results? Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool within the education sector. Use it to your advantage.

**PPA stands for ‘planning, preparation and assessment’ time. It is time allocated for a teacher to complete their duties away from the children in their care.

*Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash.

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