Administrators across the country know that teachers are working harder than ever. An Education Week survey found that the typical teacher worked 54 hours a week, but only 25 of those hours were actually spent teaching. Teachers spend a lot of time on other tasks, including lesson planning and extra-curricular activities before and after school and on weekends.

That said, teacher retention remains a top concern for district and school leaders. In Texas, House Bill 4545 went into effect last school year, requiring schools to provide accelerated instruction to help students catch up if they didn’t pass or didn’t take the state’s assessment, the STAAR. In some Texas districts, this has the unintended effect of adding to teachers’ workload, which can exacerbate teachers wanting to leave the classroom.

We held a webinar in the Spring to discuss the challenges that teachers in Texas face to keep classrooms running smoothly while addressing state initiatives like HB 4545 – and keeping students engaged and learning.  Leaders from three Texas districts – Rami Tulp, Assistant Director of Intervention at Katy ISD, Dr. Chris Miller, Chief Academic Officer at Blue Ridge ISD and Yolanda Delaney, Director of Elementary School Leadership at Canyon ISD – shared strategies to address these challenges in a way that will support teachers and work to lighten their workload. 

The webinar “Supporting Texas Teachers: Time-Saving Resources for Spring and Beyond” is available on-demand.

Connection between Curriculum and HR 

The importance of teachers having the right resources and support as a way to ensure they want to stay in the classroom was evident throughout the webinar. Dr. Chris Miller set the stage upfront by saying: “I look at curriculum through the larger HR lens. If you provide teachers with good curriculum and resources, they are going to feel like they can do their job. And if they feel they can do their job, they will stay.”

Three Focus Areas for Support 

The discussion focused on the following three challenges where teachers often need the most support. With each challenge, the district leaders highlighted how Boardworks has helped in their support of teachers. 

1) Filling the content gaps   

All three leaders agreed that one of the most significant ways to support teachers is to provide resources to help fill gaps in teachers’ content knowledge, especially as teachers are being asked to do more and more each day. Dr. Miller started the discussion by highlighting that even teachers who are experts in a subject have those content areas where they are not the strongest and could use some help in delivering against the TEKS. He stated, “Uniquely in Blue Ridge, since it is a small district, we often ask our teachers to stretch to support instruction in areas they may not be completely familiar with. For instance, a chemistry teacher might have strong knowledge of chemistry content, but is also being asked to support biology instruction and might not be as strong in that area.” 

Rami Tulp emphasized that with HB 4545, filling content gaps can become even more of an issue. She gave an example from Katy ISD where a physical education teacher who previously taught math is now pulling students out a few times a day for accelerated math instruction to support HB 4545. The teacher hasn’t taught math in a few years and requested some support in creating engaging lessons for her students. 

Boardworks content allows districts to set up a framework where there is curriculum that teachers can access that will fill their content gaps. And if a student doesn’t understand the content, or if a teacher needs to extend learning for a student who gets it right away, Boardworks is the resource already in place for those teachers so they know exactly what to do.

Blue Ridge ISD created a curriculum management plan where the district brought in resources and wrote curriculum to fill gaps. For instance, the Boardworks lessons that the district uses are aligned to and specifically state how they address Texas state standards. They are ready-to-go lessons that teachers can quickly implement to support the content areas they might not be familiar with.

As Dr. Miller states, “It’s a moral imperative to give teachers what they need. Lessons need to be in their holster, so when a student struggles, teachers have lessons readily available to support that student.”

2) Supporting new, non-traditional, and substitute teachers

In Texas and elsewhere, many districts are hiring teachers who don’t have a traditional teaching background. We discussed during the webinar the hypothetical situation of hiring a teacher who switched from a career at Best Buy to be a teacher. The teacher has a bachelor’s degree but will likely need additional support with some aspects of teaching that they may not have experience in. For instance, how to scaffold instruction for students who may be two or three grade levels behind – something that is needed to support HB 4545 requirements too.

Katy ISD provides content in multiple grade levels so all the students can work on content at their grade level. The district uses Boardworks lessons because it’s easy for teachers, especially those who don’t have experience, to implement and scaffold the lessons. 

Tulp summed up the power of a resource like Boardworks to help new and non-traditional teachers feel supported and make their job easier. She stated, “Teachers like the Best Buy example might not be knowledgeable about scaffolding, but when you have the right resource, like Boardworks, it’s totally life-changing. It allows those students to access good quality content, and their teachers feel so much more confident.”

Dr. Miller brought up support for substitute teachers as well. He said, “We have permanent subs, and Boardworks gave them an avenue to success. I may not be a math expert, but I have a good resource to help me.” He continued, “We will have teacher shortages, so we need solutions like Boardworks to keep that learning happening.”

3)  Protecting teachers’ time

The district leaders were in agreement that finding ways to give teachers back some of their non-instructional time was one way to best support teachers and keep them from getting burned out. Canyon ISD’s Yolonda Delaney shared that one of the challenges at her district was that teachers had smartboards in their classrooms but didn’t have time to create lessons for them. Teachers were spending hours creating interactive lessons for students to use with the smartboards, and it wasn’t sustainable. 

“Lesson planning and lesson execution is hard. The time to get all that done – there’s not enough,” Delaney said during the webinar. “So how do we provide them with resources and take that off their plate so they don’t have to create the lesson but can still execute it well?”

She said providing a good supplementary resource – adopting Boardworsk’s ready-to-use lesson with built-in interactivity – helped the district meet this need. So instead of creating the lessons, the teachers could spend the time understanding content for standards, talking about instructional practices – and teaching.

Boardworks allows the district to be more intentional about lesson planning and pushing guided practice with interaction. Because with Boardworks, the interactive lessons are there – whether teachers share them through an LMS or use them in live teaching. 

Rami Tulp recalled a conversation with a high school instructional coach in her district about how Boardworks has saved teachers’ time. She shared, “After getting access to Boardworks, the coach called me to ask ‘What’s the catch?’ She was excited that Boardworks was so easy to use and thought out”. The coach supported teachers who were not entirely comfortable with biology by creating lessons. With Boardworks, lesson creation time was gone, so better instructional practice conversations and support could now happen. Tulp conveys how the coach put it, “That was a game-changer!”

Supporting Teachers with Boardworks

The bottom line is that all district leaders want to provide quality instruction for kids and give the teachers solutions to make their job less challenging. Providing teachers with quality curriculum and resources to help them fill content gaps, save time, and scaffold instruction to accelerate or extend learning, empowers them. It shows teachers – including new teachers, alternatively licensed teachers, and substitute teachers – that they are supported and given the tools they need to succeed. 

With Boardworks, teachers get access to over 30,000 interactive lessons that cover four core subject areas that address the TEKS and other state standards. Boardworks has helped many school and district leaders provide a resource that helps students succeed and ensures great teachers stay.

Schedule a demo of Boardworks to see how it can help your school or district.