Few professions have been as heavily impacted by the pandemic as teaching. On top of budget shortfalls and widening equity gaps, social-distancing measures have forced educators to adapt to a completely new style of instruction virtually overnight.
“I wish I could teach in person, but I know that my school is not safe enough to do that. I would love to be in front of the students being energetic, hearing their voices, and having them raise their hands, but I know it wouldn’t be safe.”
But students’ and teachers’ experiences vary widely across the U.S. Full or partial school closures have been mandated in seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, in four states — Arkansas, Iowa, Florida and Texas — in-person instruction must be available to all students, either full- or part-time. That’s even more pressure piled on teachers.
LawnStarter reached out to educators directly to find out exactly how their classrooms and jobs have been impacted, surveying nearly 130 K–12 teachers in the U.S. across a number of topics, including:
- Their struggles with the transition to online learning
- New teaching strategies they’ve employed
- How the education system should adjust if the pandemic persists over the long term.
Online Education is In: A majority (63 percent) of the teachers we surveyed say they’re teaching online only, 14 percent are teaching in the classroom, and 23 percent are juggling a hybrid of both online and in-classroom teaching.
Home Doubles as Classroom: Nearly 50 percent of teachers we surveyed said they found it “easy” to adapt their home or other remote space to online teaching. Half said they’d prefer to teach online only during the pandemic.
Teaching is Harder Now: Seventy percent of teachers say they spend more time prepping for online classes than for in-person teaching. How much more? Nearly half said they work 1-5 more hours per week.
- Over 60%: Teachers who said their students are more engaged in person than online
- 32%: Teachers who said their students are more engaged online than in person
- 2X more: Teachers in 31–40 age group (vs. 20–30 age group) who said their students are more engaged in person than online
- 63%: Teachers who said technology is somewhat of a barrier to their students’ learning
- More than 4 in 5: Grew as teachers as a result of the changes caused by the pandemic
- 66%: Earn the same or less than they did before the pandemic
Federal Response to COVID-19
- Over 79%: “Satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the federal government’s handling of the pandemic specifically as it relates to education
- 6% Republican vs. 40% Democratic: “Dissatisfied” with the federal government’s handling of the pandemic specifically as it relates to education
- 81% Republican vs. 44% Democratic: “Satisfied” with the federal government’s response to the pandemic specifically as it relates to education
- 0 in 41–50 age group: “Very dissatisfied” with the federal government’s handling of the pandemic specifically as it relates to education
Data reveals many patterns, but we wanted to understand the situation from the ground, so we asked teachers open-ended questions that yielded helpful, interesting and sometimes dispiriting answers.
Here’s what K–12 educators from around the country had to say about teaching during these turbulent times and how they envision the post-pandemic classroom of the future:
Describe the specific changes you had to make to adapt your space to online teaching.
- “I had to totally revise the schedule I was teaching (not the number of classes but the times), rewrite my unit plans, lesson plans, curriculum, scope and sequences, and projects.”
- “I converted everything that would be paper to digital forms using Google apps.”
- “I needed a whiteboard and other things brought in, so my studio is the classroom now.”
- “I already had a dedicated office with proper equipment, so I just added ‘classroom’ background props.”
- “I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend who also has been working from home. […] My bed is my desk, and the only other chair available to me that wasn’t a tall stool was our patio chair. I sit in that, in front of the bed, with my closed bathroom door behind me.”
What are your strategies for keeping students engaged during virtual learning?
- “I try to give them choice and flexibility. Some of them are night owls, so I make their assignments due in the evening rather than in the afternoon or morning.”
- “Constant communication, emails, texts, Google Classroom. Quick grading, lots of self-made videos on EdPuzzle.”
- “I have intermittent material comprehension ‘quizzes.’ Not graded, just something like a straw poll or survey to keep kids engaged.”
- “Hope and trust.”
- “I use songs to keep kids engaged.”
- “Break the ice, foster a community, create individual learning plans, and develop curriculum around shorter content.”
- “I set the rules at the beginning and create a reward system for the students.”
- “I encourage students to take advantage of discussion-based features on course websites like Canvas. I also use office hours to engage students in a more informal setting and encourage them to keep in touch with each other.”
- “Formative assessment using socrative.com that shows me their answers in real time, along with their name. This serves as a participation grade, but it also allows me to see where they are at as far as comprehension of the material.”
- “I try to offer alternative assignments whenever possible, especially to attract students’ attention and increase buy-in.”
What are the best practices for teaching only online or in a hybrid setting?
- “I think it’s important to be structured because consistency is the key to success. However, it’s also important to give students grace and understand that this is a new experience for everyone.”
- “The absolute best thing I can recommend is keeping an up-to-date gradebook, and make participation a part of the student’s grade. It is really the only way to keep students accountable when they are not in the same room with you.”
- “Making yourself available for students to call on when they have a question or need something. Since this is new, things can get confusing, so they need to know I am on their side. Be understanding that some students may be dealing more with more stressful things at home.”
- “Communicate. Hold students to a high standard. Hold fast to due dates so students have consistency. Contact guardians using multiple methods.”
- “Focus on well-being and relationships.”
- “Be sure to give students individual attention instead of just lecturing to the class as a whole.”
- “Communicating with students and parents is more important than ever.”
- “Discuss time-management strategies and communicate expected time-on-task for online learning activities.”
- “Break learning into smaller chunks. Establish a pattern of activity and due dates. Describe expectations for online participation, communication, and netiquette. Provide technical support information.”
- “Instead of clicking ‘End’ on the Zoom call, I allow students to end it themselves. This gives students who want to stay behind to ask me questions in private (rather than ‘in front’ of the whole class) the opportunity to do so.”
- “Remind oneself that this is only temporary.”
- “Having a reliable medium for assigning and receiving work is absolutely crucial. It’s important to regularly invite students into the process and check to see if they have any needs or if there are barriers to their involvement.”
Please explain why you would prefer to teach only in person, only online, or using a hybrid model during the pandemic, if given the choice.
- “Online is the safest option until a vaccine is available.”
- “More flexibility in scheduling.”
- “I do not want to get sick, nor do I want to put my students at risk. This too shall pass, and we just need to get through it with the minimal amount of loss possible.”
- “In-person without a pandemic is the best. But because that is not an option, online-only is the best choice. Everyone is safer that way. The teacher can focus all efforts on making virtual learning fun and keeping the students engaged. Splitting the teacher apart to online and in-person at the same time is absurd. And all-in-person right now is reckless and thoughtless.”
- “I wish I could teach in person, but I know that my school is not safe enough to do that. I would love to be in front of the students being energetic, hearing their voices, and having them raise their hands, but I know it wouldn’t be safe.”
- “Nothing beats being face-to-face with the students so that I can visibly see how they are responding to instruction.”
- “In-person is simply more effective. I can respond to issues in real time.”
- “My district doesn’t necessarily have the money for all the kids to have the technology they need at home.”
- “Online and hybrid is disruptive to learning, and my students are only fully engaged while in a classroom setting.”
- “As a special-education teacher, observations and conversations with students in person is the best. Hybrid is not working as the students are not working or completing assignments at home. They are behind and treat their e-Learning day at home as a day off.”
- “If I had the proper training (our teachers were basically ‘thrown into it’ and told to figure it out), I might consider teaching virtually.”
- “Although teaching hybrid where most of my time is online, I still prioritize safety. While this has been more work for me, I understand and accept the hardship.”
- “I like the freedom and atmosphere of being able to work from home.”
- “It strikes a balance between both options. I can reach the most families this way.”
- “Hybrid allows students to select the learning option that is best for them.”
Post-pandemic, would you prefer to continue teaching only online, go back to teaching in person, or teach in a hybrid environment?
- “All-online could work well. I miss seeing my students and interacting in person. But I think this pandemic has shown how much time is needed for learning and how much time of class is simply free child care so a parent can go to work.”
- “Technology cannot replace a teacher. It is merely an augmentation to a teacher.”
- “In person exclusively if the pandemic is truly over.”
- “I would prefer in-person, because I miss the accessibility to my students and colleagues, as well as to normal resources.”
- “I would like to have some semblance of a hybrid learning environment, like a flipped classroom. Technology is still a great tool for our students to use to learn with.”
- If the pandemic persists over the next couple of years or so, how should schools prepare differently to meet faculty, student and staff needs?
- “Pay greater attention to teacher burnout and mental health, and provide more equipment at home for better online instruction.”
- “Teachers should be given designated paid plan time.”
- “There needs to be a general online plan because it still feels like they’re building the plane while flying it.”
- “Clear and effective communication would be most important. Things are constantly changing, which I understand, but those changes are sometimes not communicated effectively to staff. Often, the community knows about things before we do.”
- “Make sure that the technology that students need to keep up is available to them.”
- “We need funds to make a safe school environment! We have had to implement safety measures with no federal help whatsoever, only to have the pandemic not under control so we are teaching from home anyways.”
- “We need more teachers and fewer students per classroom.”
- “The schools may need to hire more teachers, as I am sure many will leave the profession. The expectations are too much.”
- “First of all, teachers need a pay raise. We are doing double the work and it’s ridiculous how underappreciated we are. My county is going back to school soon, which is risking our health.”
- “There needs to be more planning time and training allotted to teachers. There also needs to be better software to make synchronous/asynchronous more seamless.”
- “Involve teachers in the planning phase, actually listen to their suggestions and recommendations.”
- “We should have standardized policies and procedures, hazard pay, extra prep time, PPE, lots of tech and social services for families.”
- “They need to make all classes online. They need to pay teachers more. They need to provide students with materials so rich students don’t have an advantage over poor students. Everyone should have their Wi-Fi paid for.”
Why This Survey Matters
The change from in-classroom teaching to remote learning has occurred on a massive scale: During the spring peak of the pandemic, as many as 55 million school children were confined to their homes.
And these simultaneous crises are having a real impact: The Brookings Institute estimates students’ reading gains to decline by 30% and math gains by 50% this fall compared to a typical school year. Because education drives the future of the economy, such disruptions in the classroom stretch to every aspect of our lives.
That’s why this teacher survey matters. Teachers are essential workers during this pandemic. They’re working longer hours to juggle new ways of educating pupils and students, and this survey shows the ways they are trying to adapt, cope, and make things better going forward.
Story courtesy Lawnstarter.com