The third school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is just a few short weeks away, but the toll it’s taken on teachers since March of 2020 still resides clearly at the forefront of their minds.
From the first few days of initial chaos to the end of the 2020-2021 school year, teachers saw their entire careers change in ways they once thought unimaginable. And the impact this has had on their physical and mental health is still being assessed.
If one had to select a single word to describe everything teachers experienced as a result of the pandemic, it could easily be the word ‘overwhelming.’ The repercussions of COVID-19 literally affected every thought teachers had and every action they took so much so that they began to feel paralyzed by it.
It’s easy to point out how chaotic it would be to go from teaching and building rapport with students in person to doing the same with them virtually and then add the layer that they did not receive proper training because there was no time. While impactful, this is really an insignificant part of a much larger picture.
Teachers teach. That’s an inarguable fact. But they do so much more every day that is rarely recognized. All their processes and actions were drastically impacted by the school lockdown.
From making sure children are adequately fed to providing them with clean, weather-appropriate clothes and shoes, school supplies, sanitary products, and a safe person to talk to teachers are pulled in so many different directions. They are teacher, caregiver and counselor and they take these roles to heart.
While some pointed out that teachers kept their jobs and got to work from home, teachers were too busy feeling intense mental fatigue to even notice.
Instead, they were focusing on:
- Getting their students important resources like technology, internet, food, personal care items, and mental health services
- Trying to reach all students especially special education, at-risk, and English language learners
- Worrying about students that are abused at home and school is the only safe place they have
- Having students slip off their radar and stop attending virtual school
- Watching students fall more and more behind despite their best efforts
- Being afraid of catching the virus themselves or watching those they love catch it
They were so focused on these critical details and the needs of their family that they were forced to put themselves. And when anyone undervalues the importance of self-care no matter what the cause, it leads to noticeable increases in stress, burnout, nervousness, distress, and depression.
While teachers have always deserved our support and respect for everything they manage to accomplish for our children, now they need it more than ever. A little compassion and understanding will go a long way towards improving the physical and mental health of our teachers for the coming school year. Teachers are the foundation of our educational system. Giving them a safe environment to teach our students should be of utmost importance. Using virtual education through a virtual classroom that offers activity-based and small group learning is one area that schools districts can provide that support and safety. Jigsaw Interactive is the only virtual classroom that was built specifically for teaching and learning.