As the Texas Education Agency (TEA) rolls out instructional model options for next year, districts need to be prepared to make decisions about teacher assignments.
Most administrators are discussing two instructional settings, in-class instruction and remote instruction (asynchronous and synchronous). The rush in the spring to move students to a remote learning environment did not leave much time for district professional development or curriculum planning, so districts are now working to better prepare for remote learning in the fall.
Even though student choice of instructional model will not be finalized until two weeks prior to the start of the new school year, staffing and instructional plans must be made before then. Some districts are already surveying parents for preliminary data that can be used to forecast staffing needs.
TEA has released its Guidebook for Back to School Planning, aiding districts in identifying the instructional models that best meet district needs. Through collection of data, districts can understand their organizational capacity and can develop a staffing model designed to best serve students. To help alleviate the COVID slide, teacher talent must be identified and placed strategically.
The selection process is key to determining who would be most effective in a remote setting versus who may serve students better on-campus and must be considered. Posting a remote teaching position to internal staff may be a good way to gather information on which teachers are interested in continuing remote instruction. And, posting as a “pool” would allow a district to accept applications from all who might be interested, even if the actual number of teaching positions isn’t yet known. Once applications are received, interviews for remote assignments can begin.
A remote teacher job description is available in the HR Library and identifies some key responsibilities for remote instruction. These responsibilities include:
- Create a virtual classroom environment conducive to learning and appropriate for the physical, social, and emotional development of students.
- Be available by phone, email, or video conferencing to confer with district personnel, students, and/or parents.
- Communicate with students or parents on a regular basis via phone or video conference, email, or district-approved website.
Some of the skills and knowledge a remote teacher applicant must possess include:
- Knowledge of instructional practices for online learning
- Strong knowledge of internet and web-related technology
- Ability to instruct students using a variety of technology applications and platforms
- Ability to support students with computer set-up, navigation, and technology issues
The application process will help determine desire for a remote teaching position, but the interview process can identify the applicants most suited for the assignment. To best serve students, skill should trump desire. A virtual learning section has recently been added to the Sample Teacher Interview Questions in the HR Library. This sample can be used to guide the interviewer in determining applicant attributes that best align with the question to determine the applicants best suited for remote teaching. Below is a sample of the newly designed teacher interview questions.
- What skills or strengths do you have that make you best suited to be a virtual teacher?
- What excites you about providing classroom instruction in a virtual environment?
- Describe your process for instructional planning and content delivery in the virtual classroom.
- How do you create lessons and activities that align with state standards and provide personalized learning opportunities for students?
- As a virtual teacher, how have or will you create a classroom environment with strong student engagement?
Additionally, a virtual learning section has been added to the Sample Principal Interview Questions. Leading virtual learning, providing support, and managing a remote work staff will provide unique challenges for principals. Whether your district opts to create a “virtual principal” position responsible for oversight of all virtual teachers or make each principal responsible for teachers assigned to their campus, whether in-person or virtual, it’s important to gauge how well-prepared principals are to supervise and support remote staff. Below is a sample of the newly designed interview questions to be used for principals.
- What training and leadership experiences relevant to virtual learning do you have as a teacher and/or a campus leader?
- What are your expectations for virtual teachers and the learning happening in this environment?
- How will you determine teachers that are best suited to the role of virtual teacher?
- What types of professional development will you recommend for virtual teachers to ensure they are fully engaged and supported in their work throughout the school year?
- How will you implement professional learning communities and provide opportunities for collegiality and collaboration among your virtual teachers?
Teachers will need to be trained for the new environment, and professional development will need to be focused and ongoing. The varied instructional models will need to be addressed along with the forms of delivery.
Whether a student will be attending remotely or returning to the school setting, staff must support students’ mental health and wellness. The professional development offered must include components that will prepare staff to successfully provide this support.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC) or Community of Practice groups should be designed to provide teachers with opportunities to share instructional ideas, best practices, and social emotional support. If these have not been established in the past, now would be a good time to implement.
Not all teachers are going to be able to teach remotely, nor will all teachers be able to return to the classroom. Once remote talent is identified, HR will be able to finalize assignments. Some requests will be made due to high-risk health factors. Accommodations requested may include a remote work arrangement, but other options also may be available such as staggered schedules, personal protective equipment, enhanced protective measures such as installation of barriers, or changed assignment.
Student choice determinations two weeks prior to the start of the school year will be challenging. HR can begin the selection process now using preliminary data to reduce staff frustration, ease tension, and alleviate anxiety. Identifying a pool of teachers who have the desire to teach remotely and the skills to do so effectively will help districts be prepared to make assignments once student learning environment choices are finalized.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at email@example.com.
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