Teaching in the K-12 world is often simultaneously exciting and challenging, but when you add a pandemic to any job it ratchets up the stress level and a need for release. Education associate professor Dr. Teri Langlie recognized early on in the pandemic that teachers were going to need space to figure out how to keep being good educators while also navigating a pandemic in their classrooms and their personal lives.
“There is an incredible amount of stress right now. What I was seeing was plenty of free professional development, which is wonderful, but what the teachers seemed to need was to give space to share ideas,” Langlie says.
Langlie created a new online network for teachers called “Teacher Talk.” The group meets virtually on the second Thursday of the month to connect over what Langlie calls the three “C’s” – communicate, commiserate, and celebrate.
Fellow education faculty members Dr. Cassandra Glynn and Dr. Kristen Ford are facilitators along with Langlie for the group. Ford says she looks forward to every session because along with the individual supports for the teachers they are also gaining important instructional strategies.
“I have loved seeing the community that develops and the collaboration that occurs during these sessions,” Ford says. “I appreciate the connections that are made and the inspiration that comes from conversations during our sessions.”
The “Teacher Talk” sessions, which are open to any K-12 teacher, use games and teaching methods – no surprise there – to get the group talking about the ups and downs of their classrooms. It was modeled after a program Langlie started right before the pandemic began called “The New Teacher Network,” which helped new teachers talk together about the joys and complexities of being in their first four years of teaching. After a short break during the beginning of the pandemic, “The New Teacher Network” is meeting again on the first Thursday of the month with many of the same goals.
“This is really about developing relationships,” Langlie says. “For many classroom teachers, they are the only adult in the room all day long and you can feel like an island. This gives teachers who are passionate about what they do an opportunity to share. And when you get a new idea it’s invigorating!”
All the professors stated that while commiseration – hearing you aren’t alone in the challenges – is important, the conversations don’t end there.
“It's been helpful for the teachers to have a safe space to express frustration, but also wins because they have also had some incredible successes this year and have overcome challenges,” Glynn says. “It’s inspiring to see how creative teachers are and how, despite the challenges they have faced, they continue to put their learners’ needs first.”
Langlie says this learning is just a beautiful byproduct of the teachers’ time together.
“At the heart of it, it is just giving teachers a place to go,” Langlie says. “I’m a passionate teacher – I’d like to teach all the time! But this is a time for teachers to be together and support each other and we are learning from each other.”