The Realities of Pandemic Teaching
By Marilisa Cappello
Teachers are being underpaid for their somewhat forgotten efforts during the pandemic. They should be receiving higher pay, as they are dealing with a transition to online learning and are creating a new online learning format for students. Not only that, but our teachers are getting into a possibly dangerous situation; they are surrounded by students for hours on end, which is a COVID-19 disaster waiting to happen.
America’s teachers are being put in danger, and are dealing with a host of other issues during the pandemic. Teachers are carrying the responsibility of teaching America’s children with little state and federal guidance and no pay raise, which is unacceptable for the position they have.
The transition to a new era has been difficult for all fields, but especially for those in education. Many teachers had not been prepared for the quick transition from classroom to fully remote or even to hybrid learning. In weeks, teachers were expected to learn new sites and become masters. One site notes that, “To prepare themselves for digital classrooms, teachers need to ensure they are thoroughly familiar with the necessary tools and need to be internet savvy.” This is just an unfair expectation for teachers, as most have not been prepared to be virtual teachers and to instantly become tech support as well.
Another problem that teachers have no control over when it comes to technology is sites crashing. With the school’s “internet highway” getting more crowded, it is not a surprise that sites are crashing, and Zooms are kicking teachers out mid-lesson. This statement from Henry Harvin proves this point, with a teacher stating, “I can see some online classes have started in the last few days, and parents already started complaining of the internet running out of data.”
These technical issues are distracting teachers from achieving their primary goal: teaching. Tech support for students at home may be limited, making it harder for teachers and students. This an added struggle for those teaching younger grades, as most little kids can’t just “figure out” what to do in these kinds of situations. Many kids don’t have someone to help them if something goes wrong, leaving them stranded, with teachers having little control. Along with that, younger kids are not as tech savvy as high schoolers.
Many high schoolers are almost seasoned pros when it comes to navigating these various online programs and are more self-sufficient when it comes to technology issues. “It’s easier for bigger kids because they know how to navigate through the various programs; it was a challenge because they could not do the programs by themselves” says a teacher of younger students in Time.
The new technology is difficult on both ends, but it is the teachers who take the fall for these issues. As much as teachers try to resolve these issues, technology is unpredictable, and we can’t blame teachers for this. They are going above and beyond trying to make this transition seamless, with no extra pay for their many hours of extra hard work.
Our teachers are not only dealing with the new technology side of teaching, they are taking on extra responsibilities inside and outside the classroom. My mom is a science teacher at King Street Elementary School and has worked longer and harder than she has ever before. She is faced with the challenge of teaching science fully remotely, while still being engaging and fun. One of the biggest struggles she says she has dealt with so far is “trying to keep science hands-on, but it is difficult, as not everyone has access to the materials needed for at-home experiments.” She also says that now more students have been added to her roster, including a Kindergarten class, meaning she now teaches K-5 ESL and special needs classes.
She also says that an added stress due to COVID is redoing many of her lessons, since naturally many of them not remote friendly. “My workday doesn’t end at 3:30. I go home, I eat, and work again from about 5 to sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning trying to create new lessons for my hundreds of kids. A lot of people don’t see the behind the scenes of teaching and think that by doing remote teaching, it is somehow easier.”
This is a testament for many teachers, as they are faced with creating new lesson plans or tweaking old ones, with no clear model to refer to. Also, we can’t forget that teachers have responsibilities outside the classroom.
According to a teacher from a Henry Harvin article, “Moreover, many teachers have children or adults to take care of, as well.” This an added stress on teachers, as they must juggle their teaching lives and extra responsibilities as well as their responsibilities to their personal life. Teachers don’t get overtime, but are still working to create new lesson plans after the school day has ended with no compensation.
Along with the extra responsibilities that come with teaching online, teachers now have the extra responsibility of being “scouts” for COVID. With teachers being exposed to multiple kids a day, they now need to know the new safety procedures as well, and must identify possibly infected students. According to The Verge, “Now, they have to take on even more roles, such as now being trained in following state guidelines of pandemic safety as well as having to identify COVID-19 symptoms and act quickly to prevent a spread.” These are new responsibilities that come with the job of being a teacher during a global pandemic.
Teachers are now faced with the responsibility of keeping their students as well as their community safe from COVID. Teachers are having to do a lot more than what their job description says, as well as being at the forefront of preventing more COVID cases. We tend to overlook the extra work they are doing as educators, and now as COVID monitors.
Yes, teachers are faced with a new hardship of the internet and new responsibilities, but they are also risking their lives for the sake of our education. Many students have the pleasure of choosing either remote or hybrid learning. Teachers don’t have that luxury and are expected to go to work as though each day is a normal day, but now they face added health risks.
NJ Spotlight News says, "Most teachers are fearful to go back. They don’t want to go back. Even if they themselves don’t have any underlying health conditions, they have families, so they’re worried about bringing something home.” Teachers are not only concerned for their health, but the health of those at home. There is an uncertainty if a child who has COVID walks into their classroom. They are placed in room with that child and now are in a possibly life-threatening situation that they didn’t initially sign up for.
This is an even bigger fear for those with preexisting conditions or those over 65. A nationally representative Education Week Research Center survey found “forty-three percent of teachers said they personally have a physical condition believed to make people more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.” This is an alarming statistic. America is already dealing with a shortage of teachers, but now teachers are considering early retirement or quitting their jobs, as their health is too much at risk. Teachers are exposed as are medical personnel, but in some cases they are not required to follow the same protocols and protections.
Becoming a teacher is not an easy career path. There is a lot of sacrifice and hard work that goes into being an educator. However, the pandemic has created a crushing challenge for teachers as they are struggling to stay afloat and do their job as well as they can, often with little support, especially financially. A lot is uncertain about the future of teaching, but the teachers today have the weight of America’s education on their shoulders.
Teachers are sacrificing their time, energy, and sanity to teach us every day in a new world, and receiving no extra compensation -- no "hazard pay" -- for this extra work and risk. This is just unfair.
We need to show support for our teachers and do our part to make the transition as easy as possible. We may be frustrated with online or hybrid learning, but teachers are just as stressed. Teachers are human. There will be a lot of trial and error, and, in many cases, students and families may need to be more considerate. Our teachers deserve more.