If schools want to retain employees, rethinking the idea of the physical workspace—and making remote teletherapy work more widespread—is key

Reimagining schools as remote employers

If schools want to retain employees, rethinking the idea of the physical workspace—and making remote work more widespread—is key

In many administrative and service provider roles, it will be not only possible, but essential to consider this to retain talented employees. Nowhere is this more true than in special education service provision, where the number of service providers transitioning to working online began years ago, but accelerated significantly during COVID.

The workforce embrace of teletherapy

In March 2020, teletherapy service providers serving K-12 schools saw applications from clinicians seeking online therapy work skyrocket. Thousands of applications were coming from people who had previously done their work exclusively inside school buildings, providing services to students in special education programs. Suddenly teletherapy was not only the best way to reach students, but for many therapists it was also the only way to earn income. A year later, it has become a more permanent solution for some working moms.

“Since grad school I worked inside a school building,” one woman SLP shared. “But now I can’t see ever going back. I have an 18-month-old at home, and I get to see her between sessions. How could I go back?”

Teletherapy has kept more clinicians active and working with students in schools. While in the past the primary option for these clinicians was to leave their school-based position and join a teletherapy company, now schools are becoming remote employers themselves, working with companies to provide teletherapy tools and support to their own staff so they can serve students remotely on a full or hybrid basis.

With the world waking up to the benefits of remote work, schools will need to embrace flexibility to ensure that their most talented clinicians remain engaged in working with the students who need them most. Innovative schools are already recognizing this and adjusting their mindset to contemplate new employment structures that will attract more talent to their schools.

Innovation in schools

Kershaw County in South Carolina has 11,000 students in 20 schools spread across 740 square miles. School leadership was initially uneasy about providing teletherapy to students.

“Skeptical would be an understatement. I thought students would need in-person therapy to build relationships with their therapists and make progress. But I was very wrong about that,” said Lori Pate, assistant principal of North Central Middle School. Principal Chad Dixon commented that “teletherapy has enabled us to deliver services to our students that we simply would not be able to otherwise provide.”

Will technology reshape the field of education? Not completely; there’s no replacement for the value of in-person connections. But technology solutions are changing the way educators do their work, and the way they make those connections with their students. When technology is used to retain more talented educators and make more connections for students, everyone wins: school, provider, and most importantly, the students.

Kate Eberle Walker

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