On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath speaks with Mandy Froehlich. Mandy is a consultant, author, and former Director of Technology and Integration. Mandy is championing for teachers’ mental health and says that addressing teacher burnout is more important than integrating new technology during this difficult time.
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Mandy Froehlich’s background in K-12 education
Mandy Froehlich is a former K-12 educator and a former Director of Technology Integration. Currently, Mandy is a consultant and author who is focused on technology integration, mental health, and teacher empowerment in K-12 schools.
Focusing on teacher mental health
Mandy’s interest and advocacy for teacher mental health came from a couple of things that converged to make this an important topic to focus on.
Mandy shared that about 4 years ago she had a conversation with a teacher who was being physically assaulted on a daily basis by students because she wasn’t getting enough support to know how to cope with the abuse. There simply weren’t enough people or resources to support this teacher in this conflict at her school. Additionally, Mandy’s own acknowledgement and focus on her own mental health led her to understand a lot of the underlying mental health challenges that teachers go through on a daily basis. Through these realizations, she was able to find a sense of comfort and relief knowing that she was not alone and knowing that she could talk to other educators about these challenges.
However, she also described feeling a fury due to the fact that educators don’t have a platform to talk about mental health issues and this discussion is not encouraged in the industry. So, she began addressing the topic of teacher mental health publicly to shed light on and destigmatize the topic for K-12 educators.
Teacher mental health before and during the pandemic
There is no shortage of K-12 teachers who have been struggling during this time. Many shared that she talks to a lot of these teachers on a daily basis, but she has noticed that there is also a group of teachers who are surviving and thriving during this time. By engaging with both groups of teachers, Mandy has observed 3 commonalities of teachers who are thriving:
1. These teachers already had some sort of self-care in place before the pandemic
2. They were already embedding elements of personalized learning into their lessons
3. They had some level of interest in technology and were willing to take risks and fail
Through her observations of teachers who are thriving during this time, Mandy has been able to help struggling teachers embrace these three elements and begin to incorporate them into their instruction.
The balance between technology integration and pedagogy
Having worked as a teacher, technology leader, and now a consultant, Mandy has been on all sides of the technology integration conversation. She shared that the districts that have come out of this time the healthiest are the ones that are focusing on pedagogy. Technology is technology, so it really comes down to how educators are teaching and then thinking about how technology can support that.
Some people focus only on the tools while others focus only on the pedagogy, and the key is finding a balance between the two disciplines. The challenge with this time is that educators who might look for support outside of their district are no longer on the same playing field as colleagues due to the variation in this balance between districts.
Tech Coaches as a support for teacher mental health
Technology integration is inevitable with the onset of remote and hybrid learning. Mandy believes that the first step to supporting teacher mental health with technology and using technology effectively is ensuring that districts have strong Technology Coaches. A strong Tech Coach will not only share new tools and how to use them, but rather lead with good teaching and learning to see where technology can fit in, and taking into account teacher mental health every step of the way.