You Are Your School’s Pressure Release Valve

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March 26, 2022 by Dr. Robbie Barber

As we turn the corner into the new School Library Month (April), we need to understand the real importance of school librarians, edtech coaches, and academic coaches as a school’s pressure release valve. More than ever, our faculty and staff need us.

A nearby high school (not the one I work at) had to close one of its outside eating areas. The PTSA had furnished and decorated the space and the students were defacing and physically destroying it. The social media area that I read complained bitterly about this closure. One person wrote that teachers needed to be out there monitoring the high school students. Another replied that it was the teachers’ only bathroom break. Some were angry at the school for closing the space – not at the students for the destruction. This goes along with the state legislative sessions that are picking on education, particularly teachers and librarians, to limit the books and materials available to students while providing higher than average support for students. The pressure continues to build against teachers and school administrators. As a school librarian and edtech coach, how can I support my teachers in the face of these external and internal pressures?

A big part is recognizing the environment we find ourselves in. “The quality of teaching is also determined by the environment in which teachers work” (OECD, 2005, 9). Is the environment, this year, high pressure? The higher the pressure on teachers, the less a teacher feels in control (Tack & Vanderlinde, 2019). On the flip side, the higher the pressure on teachers, the more teachers feel a sense of connection and community with their colleagues (Tack & Vanderlinde, 2019). In other words, we come together under pressure. Bringing the community together is the goal towards handling this high-pressure environment. We, coaches and librarians, need to help provide a pressure valve in this environment with a few key tools.

Humor

This is not the solution to any problem. It’s a release valve of shared experiences.

Finding the right joke

It actually takes time and thought. You find something humourous but it may offend or at least put someone on edge. I always check with one or two teachers to make sure this is appropriate. This meme is a joint experience for any classroom teacher or librarian.

Bite-size Pieces of Help

Like teaching in the classroom, you don’t give everyone the whole enchilada at once. You cut it into small bite-size pieces. Just remember that there are so many resources available, it can be overwhelming (McAlister, 2021). Small, specific help makes a difference. And, remember, just like in the classroom, to repeat and review and provide a time for questions or one-on-one support. Once and done rarely works.

Size, Frequency, & Images Count

When you provide help, make it specific and provide images. Also, if you are constantly bombarding teachers with help, you are part of the problem 🙃. Instead, set a regular time period to send help. Teachers know where to look and when.

I recently showed a colleague a small way to handle her Microsoft Outlook Group emails. It reduced her inbox by 8 messages a day – not an overwhelming amount, but enough to help her regain control over her email and to make her aware of the possibilities of things she can control there. A nudge helps more than we may realize.

“Room of Requirement”

In the Harry Potter books, there is a special room (Room of Requirement) that appears when you need it. I have a storage/ workspace that I shoehorned a desk into. I put an old desktop and even got a school phone installed. I don’t advertise the room, but when someone needs it, it’s there. I happened to have a storage space, but anyone can provide space, just by being aware when a room doesn’t have a current class. Share with someone who needs a private space. I’ve had teachers use it to work on grades, call parents, take Zoom calls, put their head down, and, honestly just cry in private.

And, sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is rest. @nikkimiles

References:

McAlister, A. (2021). Prevent Burnout in Yourself as a Teacher. American Music Teacher70(6), 6–11.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2005. Teachers Matter:
Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers. Education and Training Policy. Paris:
OECD Publishing.

Tack, H., & Vanderlinde, R. (2019). Capturing the relations between teacher educators’ opportunities for professional growth, work pressure, work related basic needs satisfaction, and teacher educators’ researcherly disposition. European Journal of Teacher Education42(4), 459–477. https://doi-org.proxygsu-sdek.galileo.usg.edu/10.1080/02619768.2019.1628212

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