Teaching didn’t just become tough! COVID-19 only helped to magnify some of the challenges educators face. During the pandemic, the world has begun to recognize the contribution and spotlight the incredible responsibility that teachers bear in ensuring that all children and youth everywhere can enjoy the right to an education. Teachers go above and beyond for students daily. Educators worldwide use phrases like ‘We Made It’ whenever they have a break. You may hear them shout the phrase as they approach Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break, or simply the weekend! As we embark upon the ending of the year 2021, it seems appropriate to celebrate as this is the halfway point for educators. It signifies hope as teachers close the year and welcome a New Year!
Why are Educators so excited about these breaks? It’s simple; teachers feel more challenged than ever! Rand Corporation research shows that some of the top challenges include teachers helping students build meaningful relationships, balancing stress and dealing with burnout, navigating unfamiliar technology, balancing multiple modes of teaching, and health concerns for teachers and students. In addition, many teachers are caring for their own children while teaching. Educators have debated retention or social promotion in many cases across the nation when looking at student skill levels compared to standards across grade levels.
With these challenges amplifying during a pandemic, the consequences seem dire for educational systems.
For the past few years, it has been a challenge in the classroom for students to build meaningful connections with 6 feet apart as a standard rule. Brain Science shows the importance of relationship-building starting with teacher and students. Not to mention this warps the idea of Collaborative Learning. Students need meaningful relationships with peers to feel comfortable sharing information as they learn together. Students who didn’t feel connected find it even more challenging to connect with peers in distance learning situations. Psychologists report an increase in suicides, including teenagers, since the pandemic and note that students have more stressors than they have seen pre-pandemic.
Teachers’ levels of stress and burnout have increased during the pandemic.
Once the pandemic began, teachers who may not have commonly incorporated technology were forced. Distance learning to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Meeting Owl Pro, Webex, Google Meet,, and other video conference mediums were no longer an option.
While technology has had many drawbacks in the classroom, it has allowed us to connect in ways that we may not have had otherwise.
Despite technological advances over the last decade, the experience of teaching a live online class at this time feels very different. It almost feels as if in-person classrooms need to convert to a large screen in order to meet the criteria of learning as we know it now. Because of the effects of distance learning, if you have more than a handful of students, they typically mute themselves and only unmute when they talk to the class when learning occurs online. Students say dialogue with peers in a classroom setting can feel less natural. There are elements that are missing when online learning happens like laughter on the way to class, telling a friend you will see them after school or tomorrow just before the bell rings, the interaction that happens in class that makes everyone want to burst into laughter because of the vibe in the room and so many more simple human interactions. Teachers have had to adjust to Synchronous and Asynchronous learning.
Research findings regarding the impact of synchronous and asynchronous teaching settings on student performance have shared interpretations. Nieuwoudt (2020) found that it did not make a difference for student achievement whether students attended synchronous virtual classes or watched the recordings of the virtual classes. However, the time students participated in and interacted with the online learning system significantly affected their academic success.
This mixing of asynchronous and synchronous components is sometimes referred to as a blended learning approach.
Teachers report having increased anxiety for several reasons. Keeping students safe is always at the top of a teacher’s priorities. In many instances, teachers are challenged to keep students socially distanced. In contrast, other teachers are worried about not having cleaning supplies to keep desks, doorknobs and other common surfaces cleaned throughout the day. In instances like these, some teachers have turned in same-day resignations.
When interviewing teachers across the country, the following were concerns for them as they have taught in person as well as in hybrid environments:
There are many shared hardships among people during this pandemic.
Being aware of your level of anxiety is imperative. If you are aware of its intensity, you can better control your stress and anxiety.
It is hard to believe that over a billion students in over 190 countries have been heavily impacted as it relates to their present lives and future in significant ways. Global Fund for Children reports that 24 million children and youth (of which 11 million are girls) may drop out permanently due to the pandemic. One of these reasons includes their lack of internet access. If they can’t attend class, eventually, they are so far behind that the only option left is to drop out.
Over 150 million children who were not in poverty are now since the inception of Covid-19. In 46 countries, there have been higher rates of early marriage and pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, child labor and exploitation, child abuse, and trafficking.
According to RAND Corporation recommends the following:
Covid has certainly made the world around us different in more ways than we could imagine. It has caused us to experience uncertainty, daily routines different from what we were accustomed to, financial pressures of paying higher prices for groceries and oil, and social isolation. Some people find themselves worrying about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last, whether their job will be affected and what the future will bring. When people are in contact with others, they have to fear Information overload, rumors, and misinformation that causes them to feel they don’t know what to do. Educators, in particular, have reported increased anxiety and depression due to different pressures they face from administrators, parents, students, and colleagues. According to the Mayo Clinic, In the U.S. adults report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia since the beginning of the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic. They offer several great self care strategies such as getting enough sleep, participating in regular physical activity, eating healthily while focusing on positive thoughts.
Check out the Mayo-Clinic Q & A New Work-Life Balancing Act Podcast
Nieuwoudt, J. E. (2020). Investigating synchronous and asynchronous class attendance as predictors of academic success in online education. Australasian J. Educ. Technol. 36, 15–25. DOI: 10.14742/ajet.5137
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