Teachers, We Hear You: Teaching During the COVID Pandemic

Rebecca Anderson


October 16, 2020

Teaching during the COVID pandemic

2020 has been a year. No one knows that more than teachers. We are asking the impossible of teachers. Teaching during the COVID pandemic looks like this: teach virtually with minimal new resources or support. Or teach both virtual students and in-person students at once. Or teach them in the classroom, but don’t get too close. And don’t let them do group work or collaborate. It takes at least twice as much effort and my best guess is that the student outcomes will be about half as good.

We reached out to our 30,000 member ACE Teacher Network to ask you what school looks like right now and how it’s going: what do you need most, what’s your biggest struggle. And, wow, did you respond. Hundreds of responses that, taken collectively, paint a grim picture of teachers trying desperately to do their best at an impossible task. A huge thank-you to all the teachers who took time out of your already overflowing workday to let us know what you need and how you’re doing.

By the numbers, most of our responses came from high school teachers (42%), followed by 27% middle school teachers and 19% elementary teachers. Seventy-five percent are public school teachers. Nearly half (48%) are teaching virtually, while 36% are in a hybrid, part in-person, part virtual model. Only 8% are in person entirely.

When asked what types of resources you need most (aside from more hours in the day), 51% rated video resources as most needed, followed by lesson plans for a virtual classroom (46%) and live events like Our Climate Our Future LIVE (37%). Most teachers said in-person lesson plans are not what they need right now. You also said you needed: resources that work with Google Classroom, funding to mail materials to students, interactive labs that can be done online or from home, document cameras, microphones that work with masks on, and a collaborative space to hear from other teachers about what’s working for them. Some of those things we can help with, some, sadly, we can’t.

Lastly, we asked what your biggest struggle is right now. These responses broke my heart, as I know that the 2020-21 school year is breaking yours. Collectively, these answers represent a small window into the world of thousands of teachers, getting up every morning and trying their best to do the impossible. See the gallery below for a glimpse of what teachers’ lives look like in a pandemic.

Teachers, we hear you and we take our hats off to you. Teaching during the COVID pandemic is nearly impossible.

Thank you.

Graphic with a teacher quoted saying "It's just too much - there isn't enough time to plan for in person (with no tech access) and virtual each day and provide thoughtful feedback on assignments. I'm drowning."
Graphic quoting a teacher - "I am not a computer guy. Been doing this for 31 years and I would quit today if I could. I am finding it nearly impossible to build community and actively engage kids."
A teacher quoted saying - "My biggest struggle is how to meet the students halfway - almost all of them are literally weeks behind in every class and trying to let them know I care about their mental health while balancing giving them enough to get my own curriculum in."
Teacher quoted - "I've been teaching forever, since 1980. This is the hardest I have ever worked. My colleagues go home in tears, parents are trying, but we are given too many ways to "teach" and we don't have time to just do the basics."
Teacher quoted - "Hybrid learning with deaf students is really difficult because to include remote learners in an in-person classroom means multiple cameras and "showing" the remote learner's classmates [when they're speaking]."
Teacher quoted - "Students have poor WiFi or have large amounts of school age siblings in the same house pulling off of the same router. Some of my students are the caregiver when their parents are both at work. I have witnessed first-hand on of my 7th graders help his two younger, elementary-aged siblings set up their zoom calls."
Teacher quoted - "This is hard, like really hard, to feel like a great educator and still not run yourself ragged. I wish more people understood that teachers don't have the ability to just sit on their butts and take the easiest route. We have to be great at this and do the best we can, and right now it doesn't seem like that's attainable."
Teacher quoted - "My biggest struggle is the lack of equity of internet/wifi connections, less personal connections made with students, and struggling to convert in-person/wet labs and activities to virtual versions. It's just not the same."
Teacher quoted - "It takes much more time and energy and I am exhausted. The kids won't show their video, and only engage a little in the chat window, and it's hard to get them more involved."
Teacher quoted saying - "We have a shortened school day for in-person learners. Students stay in one classroom and teachers move. I run from class to class and seem to never get anything completed."
Teacher quoted - "The biggest thing I've struggled with is adjusting to not having my students in the room with me. The empty desks look like headstones in a cemetery."

Want to read more? Check out the ACE Blog.

Reb Anderson

Rebecca Anderson

Head of Education and Storytelling

Rebecca is ACE’s Director of Education. She came to ACE in its inception in 2008. Rebecca develops ACE's science content, manages ACE’s online climate education resource, Our Climate Our Future, and ACE's teacher network and works with schools in the Reno-Tahoe area. Prior to ACE, she did paleoclimate research in the Arctic and Antarctica.

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