In July, LifeChanger of the Year asked K-12 educators to share their experiences with remote teaching. Almost 400 teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff weighed in. Check out what they had to say about the challenges they’ve faced – and whether they feel ready for the upcoming school year.
Educators React to Survey Results in this TeacherTalk Open Forum
K-12 educators were taken by surprise and not entirely prepared for the adversity of teaching during COVID-19. However, aided by adequate support from their schools and districts, especially technology training, they have generally been able to adapt to remote learning. Some have even surprised themselves with their own resilience and creativity.
Despite this, they have many concerns about remote learning, mostly regarding the student experience. For example, only 11% of respondents cited technology access for themselves as a top concern, while 59% cited it as a top concern for students.
Educators are most worried about their ability to hold students accountable from a distance (64%) and the inequities of virtual education (42%). Some view face-to-face communication and classroom interaction as crucial for motivation and social-emotional learning. Standards for attendance and evaluation have been neglected, and it’s difficult or impossible to support students who experience educational neglect at home. Educators cite specific populations in their concerns, including rural students lacking internet connection, inner city students, and bilingual students.
Regarding the 2020-21 school year, educators are under an extreme amount of stress. Many are stressed about the uncertainty, anxious about their health and well-being, and feel they are not included in decision-making or that decisions made may not be in their best interests. As one respondent put it, “The waiting is very hard, the wondering is too scary, the needs are great. You can’t meet them all.”
In order to raise educators’ confidence and continue with remote education into the year successfully, the majority will need a variety of additional support and resources, including more training on technology and SEL (57%), greater access to students and families (56%), and financial and technology donations from their communities (60%), and more guidance and clear policies/procedures on remote curriculum instruction and testing (47%).
- Top challenges for remote learning are:
- motivating and holding students accountable (64%),
- technology access for students (59%),
- ensuring students have equal learning opportunities (42%).
- 90% of educators were not entirely prepared for remote learning.
- 73% of educators received at least adequate support from their district while teaching remotely.
- About half of respondents’ schools will be implementing mask wearing (54%) and social distancing in non-classroom areas (50%). No other precautionary measures (temperature checks, distancing in classrooms, etc.) reached 50%. 11% of respondents will not be returning to in-person education at all in Fall 2020.
- 63% of educators are at least somewhat confident in their school or district’s plan for the Fall 2020 semester. However, 37% are not at all confident.
- In order to continue with remote education in the 2019-20 school year, educators will need more:
- financial and technology donations from their communities (60%)
- training on technology and SEL (57%)
- access to students and families (56%)
- guidance and clear policies/procedures on remote curriculum instruction and testing (47%).
- Half of educators and/or their families have been negatively impacted financially by COVID-19. However, the majority (62%) say it will have no impact on their ability to save for retirement or their current career plan/trajectory (67%).
In Their Words
There are huge differences of opinion among educators on a variety of issues related to educating during the pandemic, highlighted by some of the quotes from respondents below:
On the effectiveness of remote learning:
“We need to understand that remote learning is not equitable and cannot replace the classroom experience.” – Kathy B.
“Students with emotional needs are difficult to serve remotely. Many checked out as soon as school went remote.” – Sharon J.
“I learned that for some students, distance learning works much better than face to face whole class learning. Our district should have virtual learning opportunities for students who would thrive better with this instruction. It is also a way to continue education with students who are suspended or sick at home. Virtual learning also enables teachers to continue instruction on ‘snow days.’” – Catherine C.
“ Contrary to my initial fears of distance education, the circumstances provided opportunities for me to work more closely with students and to establish more productive collaborative partnerships with colleagues. To my surprise, the quality of interactions, as well as my relationships with students and teachers, grew during this period.” – Jean R.
“We have to figure out grading. We can’t just keep saying, ‘It’s a pandemic, so make sure the grades reflect that.’ We are professionals. We know how to make accommodations. Grading was such a joke that I began to call it the ‘passdemic.’” – Pren W.
“Parent communication and accountability were the two biggest struggles and issues I found. Students wouldn’t always log on daily and whenever parents were called, nothing much would change.” – Lisa C.
“Creating open communication with students’ parents helped me a lot during the sudden change to remote learning. They were the ones who helped me keep the students focused at home.” – Azineth B.
On reopening schools:
“I am asked if I want to go back to the classroom. It is all I want…it is my lifeline. However, without compliance by others, my life is at high risk. I will have to make that choice, and it is one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. My students need to go back and sing… I need to go back and conduct…unfortunately, my voice has not been convincing enough.” – Sheryl H.
“I am dismayed at how quickly the thankful parents have turned on the teaching profession as a whole now that social distancing fatigue has set in and a new school year looms. Once again, it seems teachers are expected to sacrifice themselves and their families for the good of their students.” – Robin W.
On in-person education this fall:
“I prefer being in the classroom with my students and feel like we should be returning to the classroom in person five days a week starting at the beginning of the school year. The risk of the coronavirus is not nearly as high with the younger children.” – Dorothy J.
“Is there going to be a life insurance policy like there is for school shootings on us? I am very anxious. As much as I want to be back with my students, I do not want to be a dedication page in the yearbook this year.” – Megan S.
“I am just concerned about the trauma the in-person students will experience when our incredibly collaborative and hands-on school becomes strict, isolating, and unwelcoming due to the safety guidelines in place. These poor kids will have to stay in one spot without moving or touching anything and will have to stay far apart from their friends and teachers.” – Lauren G.
On their own mental health:
“I was not trained in virtual teaching, and it was the most stressful time of my life. I missed the social/emotional daily contact with my students. It has been the worst time of my life.” – Mary M.
“While we are all experiencing an unprecedented time full of unknowns and uncertainties, it is imperative to try to maintain a sense of positivity. Having a positive attitude was very beneficial when dealing with my students. It helped to ease some of their anxiety.” – Sherita H.
LifeChanger of the Year honors teachers, educators and school employees around the country.
Learn more at LifeChangeroftheYear.com.