Teachers educate and inspire students. But, if they’re in the United States, they also, inadvertently, become human shields.
‘Are they trained for this?’ one might wonder. Given that their combat training is limited to conducting fire drills within schools, you could hazard a pretty accurate guess.
Oh, by the way, did you know? They’re also becoming activists.
Soon after President Donald Trump proposed to arm teachers with guns to thwart shooters, teachers across the nation unequivocally rejected the idea, launching social media campaigns such as the one below:
A teacher’s job description is no longer what it used to be. And this can be a major source of mental burden for them. Ken Baldridge, a teacher herself, gave a first-hand, powerful narrative of what transpires within the classrooms nowadays.
Given the current circumstances, the teachers are furious. They are enraged. Their ask is simple: let us do our job without the threat of an impending death.
How do we do that?
Internal communications can be a powerful tool to help them in that direction. In fact, the Department of Education does have a section dedicated to internal communications, but it appears outdated and does not address the crises management scenarios that teachers should be made aware of.
To do their job well, they need to be in the right headspace. And for that to happen, they need to have a safe space that addresses all kinds of issues, be it academic or personal.
Currently, few are talking to them about:
- How they are coping from the tragedy.. Do they have PTSD?
- What is their biggest fear when they walk in to the class everyday?
- Have they already started bringing guns to schools?
- Do they want to be trained to handle a gun?
- What should they tell students, in case such incidents, repeat themselves again?
- What should they do once they identify a mentally-ill student capable of hurting others?
Or telling them how to handle the syllabus:
- Are the tests going to be conducted as per previous schedule?
- Do their lesson plans change?
- Will students recovering from PTSD get some grace marks?
Or addressing their general work conditions:
- How motivated do they feel about coming to work?
- What aspects do they wish to be changed about the administration?
- Does the current leave policy suit them?
- Do they have enough tools at their disposal to effectively impart lessons?
- Do they think they are compensated fairly?
- Are they contemplating a change in career?
They might not know to ask for “internal comms”, but they do know what kind of information they need. Some have explicitly asked for instruction on topics such as conflict resolution and first aid.
Even Hawaain authorities, who are thousands of miles away from the mainland, are racing against time to fix their internal communication systems. But for them, fixing “internal communications” is limited to “fixing the intercom, the telephones and the speakers” so everyone can hear when the school announces a lockdown. Even here, no helpful information is available for teachers to deal with such crises.
It is time that a well-rounded internal communications strategy be put forth for teachers everywhere. A strategy that addresses their everyday work, mental health and training to face such horrific events, head on.
For starters, the framework should be able to assess their current state of mind, provide a plan of action for their recovery, educate them on crises management, specify guidelines for dealing with students in the aftermath of a crisis. It should also chart out a suitable plan of engagement so can go back to doing what they enjoy the most: teach.
But the big question is, how do we execute it? The good news is that the DoE controls all public schools. The bad news is, execution in governments can be painfully slow.
Setting aside business interests for once, what do you think we could do to enforce better internal comms within public schools, specifically for teachers?