Maintaining Relationships While Working Apart

By Natika Stewart
Director of Membership Success

As schools transition to online learning or prepare plans to do so should the situation necessitate it, school leaders are preparing to support a virtual workforce. For most this is a new challenge; teaching and learning is fundamentally about relationships, and as educators, we develop and maintain those relationships in person.

It is important to intentionally support those relationships in a remote learning environment.

We know that life in a school building provides countless opportunities – both formal and informal – for interaction, for celebration, for support. The quick conversation in the hallway between classes, the team meeting after school to collaboratively plan out next month’s lessons, the after school happy hours and parties – these are all ways that you, as a school leader, model your “open door” policy for teachers and staff and keep a finger on the pulse of school culture.

So what happens when you’re no longer working in the same building, but are rather interacting only through phone or video calls? How can those types of daily rituals be recreated and reinforced remotely? How do you help your teachers feel connected to you, each other, and their students?

As a school leader, you will need to encourage the same sort of “water cooler effect” virtually. Think about using a tool like Slack to encourage (work-appropriate) chatter about anything from family updates to what faculty are reading and watching in their downtime. Set a goal for contributing to and supporting these informal conversations. This is an interesting read: How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

Formal communication is also important. Just as school and faculty handbooks detail extensive policies for communication – from policies for responding to parents, for collaborating with faculty, for checking in with supervisors and partners – you will need to evaluate and in some cases revise these policies for teachers working remotely.

Some questions to consider as you draft these communication policies for working remotely:

  • How will you, as the school leader, communicate with teachers? Phone, email, video hangout?
  • How often will you communicate with teachers? Think about scheduling check-ins with each teacher individually, as well as meetings with larger grade-level or content-specific teams, and perhaps whole-faculty calls.
  • What is the norm for how teachers should communicate with parents and students, beyond “class time”?
  • Are “school hours” the same for virtual learning? If not, when are teachers expected to be working and reachable?

For our evolving list of suggestions and ideas, visit our Resources page at


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