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What Is Virtual Teacher Support, and How Can You Best Provide It?

June 13, 2024

A student graduating from one grade to the next

With remote work continuing to flourish, virtual support is a center-stage issue for many industries. Because the arrangement is still so new, though, the research is confusing at best, often resulting in piecemeal solutions. 

If you work in a hybrid or virtual school district, virtual teacher support and student success go hand in hand. Unlike in other professions, the stakes are too high to implement ineffective or even harmful strategies. We’ll look at why virtual teacher support is so critical and how to leverage even the most limited resources to build stronger networks. 

Why High-Quality Virtual Teacher Support Is Essential

High-quality virtual teacher support shows your employees that their work is integral to your district’s performance. We’ll look at how that breaks down across teachers and students alike.  

Teacher Performance 

A virtual teacher is already under immense pressure to keep order and authority from afar. If they feel like little more than a few pixels to school leaders and colleagues, it won’t take long for their performance to reflect this. 

Better teacher support and online instructor evaluations boost the teacher’s innate skills and help them master their acquired ones. These small, daily improvements provide motivation for an ongoing growth mindset, which can carry them from school year to school year. 

Whether your school struggles with retention or disappointing test scores, committed teachers with proven track records are an invaluable resource to help turn things around. 

Student Outcomes 

Students are highly attuned to the quality of both their teachers and the larger educational system. This is why authoritative presences with indisputable subject matter expertise can make such a difference in student outcomes. However, if a teacher can’t get the support they need, their commitment will only take them so far. 

The more closed off a virtual educator feels, the more likely they are to feel stressed. The more anxious the teacher, particularly in STEM subjects, the worse the individual student’s academic performance

Remote learners are already under pressure to manage their time appropriately and avoid unnecessary distractions. If their teachers don’t get the support they need, the students will have fewer reasons to crank up the self-discipline. 

Teacher Burnout 

Since the pandemic began, public school teachers who departed their position cited school factors as the leading reason. They put more stock into factors like academic achievement, student-teacher relationships, and psychological well-being than salary. 

When teachers hit burnout levels, they lack the physical and mental ability to do their jobs. Virtual teachers may reach this point faster than their traditional classroom counterparts simply because they feel more disconnected. With better support, full-time virtual teachers can close out their days feeling as though they made a difference to the school’s larger mission. 

Alleviating stress often starts with communication. Informal check-ins give teachers a chance to vent or just discuss their students, curriculum, and role. 

For example, if the teacher’s workload increases due to new state criteria, school leaders can address how they’re working to temper the imbalance. Virtual teachers should have the opportunity to voice their concerns and propose solutions for school leaders’ consideration. 

Ignoring a teacher’s flagging performances is dangerous. The National Education Association (NEA) has already noted that new administrative efforts to combat burnout were largely viewed as “too little, too late” by many teachers.

Teacher Retention 

Teachers often explore virtual teaching opportunities because they want to stretch their skills and take on new challenges. When experienced teachers leave a post or the profession entirely, they take their experience with them. Not only does the school lose the subject matter expertise the teacher worked so hard to build, they lose the relationships between the teachers, students, faculty, and parents. 

More support won’t prevent all teacher turnover, but it can reduce rates and facilitate more stable learning environments. Higher retention in online teaching sets up reliable rhythms for students, establishing routines that lead to positive student outcomes.   

Most of the time, there are multiple milestones before a teacher officially hits the wall and resigns. More support ensures that someone sees these warning signs so there are fewer resignations at the end of the year. 

Positive Learning Environments 

Teacher-student relationships fuel virtual learning experiences. Supported teachers create a more positive and effective learning environment because they feel positive and effective in their jobs. 

The goal is to create a positive cycle: School leaders support the teachers, teachers support the students, and students support the school. When one feedback loop starts to crumble, everyone feels it. 

When teachers report higher satisfaction, that contentment comes across to the students. Instead of issuing empty praise for the school or the coursework, teachers will genuinely uphold the school’s values, and students will begin to trust that everyone has their best interests at heart. 

Schools don’t need to be perfect by any stretch, but they do need symbiotic classroom dynamics to function. 

Key Components of Online Teacher Support 

Virtual teacher support may mean taking a more granular lens to the employee’s duties. We’ll look at how teacher and student needs change when they’re interacting over a screen as well as the commonalities they share with brick-and-mortar schools. 

Resources and Technology 

Everyone knows what it feels like to have technology fail at the worst possible moment. Whether it’s an important phone call or a testing web page, the consequences can be devastating. 

Virtual teachers rely on everything from video conferencing software to grade portals to organize their classrooms. If these tools aren’t easily accessible, the micro-annoyances can quickly turn into much bigger headaches. 

Virtual teachers may not expect 100% uptime, which even the best online teaching platforms for K-12 schools can’t guarantee, but they do need reliable tools to keep their wits about them. In addition to standard platforms like Microsoft Teams and Canva, tools like Google Classroom, Kahoot!, and Seesaw are popular because they help students get the support they need. 

At Elevate K-12, our LIVE teachers can access state-of-the-art platforms that make it easier to manage their workloads and keep students engaged. Whether they need to give a quick quiz or dive into SAT prep, everything they need is at their fingertips. 

Professional Development Opportunities 

Virtual teachers face unique challenges when connecting with students and colleagues. Learning opportunities address this so distance learning feels more manageable. 

Whether it’s mastering the educational platform, implementing more interactive exercises, or setting stricter guidelines and expectations, professional development helps virtual teachers effectively impart knowledge and prepare students for whatever lies ahead. 

You might host a training program or workshop that explores the latest technology on the market and then discuss whether you can adapt it to your classroom. Or you might have teachers attend a webinar where they can learn about screencasts and how they facilitate a more in-depth understanding of the material. 

Mental Health and Well-Being Support 

On the whole, recent teacher mental health stats are bleak. Nearly 30% of teachers reported symptoms of depression, compared to 17% in other professions.  The NEA recommends focusing on teacher well-being and hiring the support staff needed to reduce impossible workloads.

Poor mental health is often the precursor to teacher burnout. If teachers are overwhelmed or otherwise frustrated with their position, these strong emotions can eventually lead to their departure. 

Counseling services, wellness programs, and stress management seminars can go a long way toward showing virtual teachers that their welfare matters. For example, you might offer small incentives for teachers who take part in short meditation sessions. Or you might set up counseling services during a particularly turbulent period. 

Even if teachers don’t take advantage of these services, their availability is a large step in the right direction. Instead of lip service about the importance of mental health, you’re offering concrete solutions for virtual teachers.

How To Provide Virtual Teacher Support for Online Learning 

Remote and in-person positions are inherently different, and we don’t recommend pretending otherwise. Instead, you should find ways to fill gaps that inevitably stem from the physical distance to improve student learning.

Establish Clear Communication Channels 

Communication has to be clear and, above all, consistent. The channels you use have a lot to do with how teachers receive and retain information. We recommend erring on the side of too much communication, simply because virtual teachers often inherently feel out of the loop.

Administrators and teachers should ideally decide between them on both the best communication channels and information delivery systems. 

For example, maybe there’s a weekly one-on-one virtual meeting between the teacher’s direct supervisor and a quarterly teleconference with district leaders. If there are policy updates that may or may not affect the virtual teacher, consider how tools like email newsletters or Slack channels can help employees feel included. 

Traditional public schools already often struggle with accurate and clear communication, and virtual positions add a new layer of complexity. This is why prioritizing communication, even if it feels superfluous at the time, may do far more good than you realize. If teachers have questions, they have someone to turn to. If they’re frustrated by a situation, they know you will hear and (if possible address their concerns. 

Facilitate Collaborative Support Networks 

Collaborative support networks bring everyone to the table, allowing them to share what’s on their minds. When you facilitate regular communication, the relationships become more cohesive. Instead of pals messaging each other their virtual teaching grievances, the conversations (and the resulting improvement suggestions) are more complete and constructive. 

For example, you might set up a peer support group that meets every month to chat about students’ progression. Or you might design a mentorship program where experienced teachers can share tips on how to organize classwork, engage students, and find more meaning and personal fulfillment in the day-to-day. 

You could even go so far as to have regular meetings where virtual teachers research the latest technology and discuss whether it would facilitate their duties. Remember that virtual teacher support doesn’t have to break your budget — there’s plenty you can do with the resources at your disposal. 

Offer Regular Feedback and Check-Ins 

Regular feedback and check-ins are non-negotiables for virtual and traditional teachers, though the strategies may change depending on the role. Virtual teachers receive different cues throughout the day about their performance. Structured, specific, and consistent feedback goes a long way to clarify what these cues mean and how teachers can use them to pivot or improve. 

For example, maybe you schedule formal reviews every school year and quarterly drop-ins where you observe the classroom dynamics and interactions. If the students seem disengaged or unable to keep pace with the lesson plan, this can indicate that the virtual teacher needs additional support. 

Or you might implement student surveys and peer reviews in the middle of the semester to gauge teacher performance before final grades are in. While no teacher wants to feel like they’re under a microscope, they also don’t want to be ignored. Regular feedback is a healthy compromise to show it’s a two-way street. 

Provide Essential Support for Virtual Teachers Today

In 2023, 23% of teachers left their school. That’s a stark reminder that school leaders don’t have time to belabor or debate how to support their virtual teachers. The time to step in is now, even if the attempts aren’t perfect, and even if they’re met with ambivalence at first. More comprehensive support is the best way to enhance teacher performance and well-being. 

In addition to following our strategies and tips above, consider partnering with an organization like Elevate K-12. Our LIVE teaching solution prioritizes experienced, authoritative teachers who are ready to jump into the fray. Plus, we provide unparalleled support for our virtual teachers, so their performance never falters. 

If your virtual teachers could use more support to ensure student success, contact Elevate K-12 today!

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