Teaching today remains an enormously meaningful and impactful profession. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people rediscovered their respect and admiration for frontline workers, including teachers, with good reason too. The average teacher impacts more than 3,000 students during their career, with 75 percent of students still perceiving teachers as mentors and role models, while more than half of students say that a teacher has helped them through a difficult moment.
Teaching remains critical, but more challenging teaching conditions have taken their toll on those who take on this vital role. Teachers and lecturers of all levels are amongst the most overworked and overstressed employees in any profession. We must maintain educators’ status as the shepherds of tomorrow, while reducing the burden and pressure and freeing up some of their time. Modern tools, processes and strategies can help redress the balance.
Step 1: Revise your meeting structures
Active participation in lively classroom conversation is one of the most prominent and essential aspects of student-teacher engagement. However, the same voices tend to dominate the conversation in certain classes, reducing less vocal students’ involvement.
One way to address this is by having students work on projects in smaller study groups, making it easier for all students to participate and have their say. The student-teacher one-on-one meeting is another, but it’s a setup that puts an enormous time burden on the teacher, lecturer, or professor’s shoulders.
Educators can modernize their approach to one-to-ones by using scheduling tooling that allows them to share their availability and then have students choose slots as they require.
There are multiple benefits to both students and teachers:
- Teachers know precisely when they need to be present, rather than heading in for office hours when no students show up.
- Knowing which students have requested a meeting allows teachers to prepare, which increases the quality and outcome of the interaction.
- Teachers can also assign their time and workload more precisely. It’s easier to work through emails, grade papers or conduct research when you know you have an hour between student meetings than when you’re continually expecting to be interrupted.
- Shy students who might be reluctant to request face-to-face time or drop by during office hours will appreciate the non-confrontational formality of booking a timeslot online.
- Finally, booking time online opens the door to one-on-one meetings also taking place virtually, which saves time and increases flexibility for both student and teacher.
The same benefits apply to teachers of younger students too.
Research shows that the quality of the home-school relationship – teachers who engage with parents and parents who take an interest in education – is an even better indicator of academic success than how actively parents participate in school activities.
Traditionally, this parent-teacher engagement has taken the form of a once-per-term parent-teacher conference or parents’ evening. These add considerable extra stress and workload in a single week for teachers. Meanwhile, parents are left in the dark for the rest of the term, causing them to either take to email for more regular updates or disengage entirely from their children’s education content.
Again, modernizing this process through a Bookable Calendar that allows parents to schedule a short slot every month or two, or whenever they have any concerns or questions, could provide a better solution. A ten-minute conversation can save hours lost to unsatisfying emails. Auto-generating a Zoom link into the calendar invite whenever a slot is booked can, once again, make these calls quicker, more comfortable and more efficient for all involved.
Step 2: Make video conferencing your new normal
At the risk of laboring the point, leading-edge scheduling software and video conferencing tools make an excellent combination when it comes to modernizing, and simplifying, the student-teacher engagement setup. But the power of video meetings goes way beyond more convenient and flexible meetings with parents and students.
With conferencing software now offering features like live whiteboards, real-time polls and virtual breakout rooms, delivering lectures and classes remotely can sometimes be a better way of conveying information, rather than being thought of as a subpar fallback plan when a plane gets delayed, a bone breaks during a doomed skiing trip or a global pandemic hits.
Again, that lends flexibility to teachers and students. Just as important, this format may also appeal more to those with different learning styles who find it hard to stay engaged or focused during a traditional class or lecture format. Students may also find some classes easier to take in when learning from the comfort of their own home, dorm room or library.
The key here is that teachers shouldn’t just think of online classes as the same as in-person classes but performed in front of a webcam instead of a group of students. Using those tools mentioned above and dropping images, videos and audio into the session will make it far more interesting.
As an added benefit, classes can be recorded for students to rewatch when revising for exams or submitting papers. Parents of younger children can experience the school or teacher’s learning process for themselves, and professors and lecturers can provide recorded versions of key classes to future years.
Face to face time remains enormously important. Some of the time saved by adopting these more modern methods can be dedicated to spending more one-on-one time with students or small project groups – where high levels of engagement are significant and impactful.
Step 3: Sign up for Slack (or another collaboration platform)
Workplaces the world over are realizing that email, while still an important tool, is not the end-all-be-all of communication and can lead to the severe destruction of time and productivity. Many organizations are turning to collaboration platforms that offer a more natural, integrated and less intrusive way to communicate, from enterprise solutions like Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook to freemium offerings like Twist and, of course, Slack.
The advantage here is that channels or groups can be created for entire classes. If a student asks a question or requests a resource, your response is there for all to see and use, saving you the trouble of answering the same email repeatedly. Better still, you’ll soon see other students jump in to answer questions and help each other out too, which doesn’t only save teachers time, but empowers students to play an even more active and engaged role in their own educational success.
By embracing the features provided by collaboration platforms, teachers can save relevant notes and slides, so all students know how to access them quickly and easily. They can even create polls to gauge students’ preferences or send out questionnaires to ask how your class found a recent lecture or assignment. Such follow-up not only forces students to reflect on their understanding, effort and participation, but also gives educators valuable feedback that they can use to improve engagement with students in the future. In addition to Slack groups and channels, students can reach out to teachers or professors in a direct chat, which may be preferable for more reserved students who’d be unlikely to approach a teacher face-to-face after class.
Finally, employees lose hours each week merely shifting between apps, so the more work that can be done within a single platform, the more efficient teachers will be. Modern workplace tools like Doodle will integrate directly with your Slack dashboard, so you can schedule meetings or send out time slot options to your class without ever leaving Slack. The same applies to numerous document sharing, calendar and conferencing tools to boot.
Commercial organizations invest millions in keeping their employees productive, engaged and satisfied through modern workplace tools, as they know they’ll see the benefit on their bottom line. It’s time we applied the same approach to schools where teachers and professors are educating our children and helping them to achieve their goals.
Using the same types of tools that have been adopted by other industries could make teaching a more efficient, productive and less stressful experience. It could also free up time for overstretched teachers to spend more of their time doing what they do best: teaching, advising and engaging with their students.
If you work in a school, college or university, take advantage of our free trial of Doodle and you’ll get back tons of time in your day so you can focus on what matters: teaching and engaging with your students.