PLEASE ROTATE YOUR DEVICE
August 19, 2020
The novel coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on schools and students nationwide, but teachers may be feeling the stress most acutely.
Stress isn’t new to teachers, but the coronavirus pandemic has elevated teachers’ stress levels to new heights. After a rapid adjustment to remote learning this spring, teachers nationwide are either still waiting to hear what form their classrooms will take in the fall or scrambling to prepare for recently-announced plans.
What’s more, adapting to radically-altered teaching schedules and formats may not even be the greatest challenge educators are facing: in states and districts that have opted for hybrid or in-person schooling, teachers are newly tasked with protecting themselves and their students from COVID infection.
Unfortunately, data shows that about one-third of teachers are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, so teachers’ fears about in-person schooling are valid — and incredibly widespread. As these pressures, uncertainties, and anxieties take their toll on teacher morale and mental health, the onus falls on school districts to ensure their teachers feel supported and heard.
The reality of teaching during COVID-19 isn’t just impacting educators’ mental health — it also has the potential to affect the longevity of their teaching careers. Two-thirds of educators are concerned about the health implications of resuming in-person teaching in the fall, to the extent that many are contemplating leaving the classroom altogether. A nationally represented survey that polled 1,907 educators in May found that a fifth of respondents were “somewhat more” or “much more” likely to leave classroom teaching at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Compared to the 9 percent of respondents that said they’d been planning to leave prior to the pandemic, districts seem to have a rapidly worsening teacher dissatisfaction crisis on their hands. The dissatisfaction also seems to be a point of discussion among educators themselves — 44 percent of teachers said they believed their colleagues were more likely to permanently leave teaching in the wake of COVID-19.
Teacher morale is an ongoing concern for school districts nationwide. In 2015, the Alliance for Excellent Education reported that teacher morale had hit an all-time low, and it’s clear that the novel coronavirus pandemic has dealt another serious blow to teachers’ job satisfaction. After a stressful pivot to remote learning, the return to school in the fall either entails risking potential exposure to the virus with in-person teaching or the continued use of an unfamiliar and challenging digital teaching format.
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges most state and district educational leaders have ever faced — but the 2020-21 academic year could be much worse if teacher morale doesn’t improve. Districts are struggling to determine a path forward because they’re weighing the consequences of two imperfect options: distance learning, which creates an unequal playing field and requires both teachers and students to adapt to new technologies, or in-person teaching, which may present a public health risk.
While both options are less than ideal, it’s exceedingly clear that neither option will be successful without the help of experienced and dedicated teachers. School districts simply cannot afford to lose their teachers at this critical moment in history. In order to stand a fighting chance of providing students with acceptable educational outcomes in the coming year, district leaders must ensure their teachers feel supported, heard, and understood.
Research suggests that leaders can boost teacher morale by acknowledging and attempting to understand the challenges teachers are facing, seeking teacher input in decision making, providing clear rationale for decisions that affect teachers, and actively listening to their needs.
A part of listening to these needs during this time should also involve districts supporting teachers by directly providing them with the resources, tools, and professional development they need to adapt to new teaching models during the pandemic. Vinson Educate offers teachers a wealth of resources, including live online classes, to help teachers better understand the digital tools they’ll need to successfully weather COVID-19. If you’re interested in learning more about how Vinson can help your school district support its teachers, contact us today.
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