Teacher Survey Project

What California teachers want policymakers to know

By

Introduction

At the end of January 2021, we surveyed our California Teacher Consultant Response Network members to ask them about their experiences as they adapt to serve their students during the pandemic. One hundred twenty-one teachers completed the initial survey of 25 questions, providing a rich data set of survey responses and thoughtful comments.

In this Spotlight we shine the light on the messages that teachers have for policymakers, education leaders and the public. We present their ideas in what follows. 

Teacher responses when asked what they would like to share

We have organized this spotlight around several large “messages” or “themes” that came through to us as we studied comments from more than 100 teachers. The messages to leaders and policymakers include the following:

Teachers are stressed by the pandemic and the instability of the system

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

My heart health has deteriorated as a result of distance learning. While I did not have atrial fibrillation before the pandemic, I have been to the ER with a heart rate of 150 due to the stress involved in not being able to reach students.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 58% low-income students in the Inland Empire

I’m not sure where to start. The patchwork of approaches to distance learning and face to face is a huge stressor for teachers who teach in one district and have children in another. It also makes it difficult for parents and students to have the end of distance learning be a moving target date. Being allowed to teach on campus one minute (or being required to) – and then being kicked off campus because there’s been an outbreak — makes it hard to plan effectively and really hard for parents to make plans for what is going on from one minute to the next.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 88% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Yes, the expectations placed on teachers is too great with not enough support to help them. It is unhealthy. My health has actually suffered. Each time you add “just one more thing” for teachers to do, it takes away their time with family, time for self-care, time to decompress from teaching…. Things need to change.

– A teacher in a middle school with 33% low-income students in the Central Coast

This has been the most difficult year in my career. Hardest of all …being under parental scrutiny every day.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 64% low-income students in the San Diego Area

I often get the feeling that leaders think that we teachers are getting paid to just stay home and kick back. They don’t see us checking our emails at 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9 and 10:00 at night. They don’t see us revising/refining lesson plans on the weekends. It’s emotionally devastating to continue marking students absent day after day not knowing if they will ever show up. It wrecks us to work on an assignment as a class and have less than 50% of the students turn it in. We question ourselves, beat ourselves up. It’s awful. I don’t know that leaders fully appreciate the toll it is taking on all of us.

– A teacher in a middle school with 79% low-income students in the Central Coast

There is also a great deal of pressure from parents on teachers to accommodate their own children’s circumstances, often stretching a teacher’s sense of fairness or appropriate standards. I think that the occasional videos posted by struggling parents who acknowledge how difficult it is to even keep their own children on track illustrates the heroic job that teachers do on a daily basis.

– A teacher in a middle school with 50% low-income students in the North Coast

There is a huge need for more mental health support

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Consider providing mental health services to all of our students– and to those staff members –who may ask for it. This pandemic and the lockdown conditions have definitely taken its toll on our mental health.

– A teacher in a middle school with 95% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

I also understand that counselors, with their overwhelming caseloads, struggle to make contact with students and their families… I know that previously highly motivated students can struggle to stay engaged and enthusiastic, that there is more depression and anxiety amongst students, aggravated by natural disasters in our area over the last several years. I know that students who were already struggling experience exponentially-increased levels of challenge. (Continued on next slide)

– A teacher in a middle school with 50% low-income students in the North Coast region

(Continued from previous slide) I know that there are highly competent, dedicated teachers who experience great deals of frustration, fatigue, and despair over the lack of student participation and the loss of the joys of teaching. Teachers also struggle with the lack of parent involvement, and the feeling of powerlessness over home conditions, illustrated by the examples of students who fail to participate, turn off cameras or mikes or both, participate for short periods of time in order to be marked present, and then log off.

– A teacher in a middle school with 50% low-income students in the North Coast region

I think trying to get through ALL of the standards in this year without stressing out students and teachers in impossible. I think it would be helpful to get guidance from the state that we should try to meet a certain percentage of these standards. I also think that students and teachers are feeling very burned out and I think adding more days to the year will be a terrible way to deal with learning loss. I also think that there should be a massive investment into mental health/ counselors as students return to school to deal with the trauma they have endured over the past year. THIS NEEDS TO BE A PRIORITY.

– A teacher in a high school with 29% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Social and Emotional Learning and mental health support must be prioritized. More counselors and school psychologists are needed. More teachers in more content areas need to be trained in SEL. Empathy is not valued enough in the current or traditional school environment.

– A teacher in a high school with 59% low-income students in the Central Coast

Children and families will need support in overcoming the traumatic experience and effects of Covid. There will be a need to support them beyond the school day. Our elementary schools need therapists and counselors. Please invest in training for teachers in Social-Emotional Learning and school materials that will support this. Keep investing in technology.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 88% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

We need mental health workers at the elementary level. We have a huge number of kids that are living with significant trauma!

– A teacher in an elementary school with 0% low-income students in the Inland Empire

We need to recognize and focus on the inequities in the system

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

This pandemic is highlighting areas of concern that many of us in education have seen for decades. Our low-income students and families need help. Our entire community needs access to quality mental health care. We need to decrease class sizes as much as possible and we need to hire more counselors, administrators, and other support staff. We should really increase funding in order to give teachers smaller classes so that they can focus on creating the amazing curriculum that all of our students deserve. More time needs to be given to teachers to collaborate in the school day. Issues around social equity and justice need to be a priority for schools to address.

– A teacher in a high school with 38% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

While teaching and trying to thrive during a pandemic is very challenging on many different levels, the issue of racial justice and equity is even more concerning. I acknowledge and am very saddened by the loss of so many lives as a result of the virus. The perpetuation of systemic inequities within education has (itself) been an ongoing pandemic and has greatly harmed young minds and hearts. This pandemic (also) needs immediate attention.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 40% low-income students in the San Diego Area

We need smaller class sizes, especially in distance learning. I know research is often touted in opposition to this request because research has shown that class size does not significantly impact student learning. This may be true, but several factors that have been shown to have a significant effect size – including teacher-student relationships and teacher expectations – can be dramatically improved if teachers can focus their energy and attention on fewer students at a given time.

– A teacher in a middle school with 39% low-income students in the Central Coast

Our students need supports that will go beyond a Chromebook and personal hotspots. Our parents need support so that they are mentally prepared to meet the needs of our students in this environment. Many of my students’ parents have lost jobs and therefore have less income; pre-Covid we had over 90% students (already) classified as socially and economically disadvantaged. As we progress, I fear increased cases of homelessness, food insecurity, and disengagement – which a few of my students are currently experiencing. We have to have more of a wraparound approach to distance learning, especially for our students of color.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 97% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

I also am concerned for teachers of Color like myself that may suffer from empathy burn out due to the high needs of our students that attend schools in low economic areas. I believe my parents want to help their students, but they need tiered system of supports in meeting their child’s needs. We currently only offer punitive solutions for students that have excess absences such as visits from truant officers and school deputies. I think schools should be open [and] safe so that students can meet some basic needs such as playing on school equipment (in a controlled environment using safety protocols).

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 97% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Lawmakers and education leaders must review and make changes regarding the funding schools receive and how the funds are distributed among districts and schools within the districts. It is not ok for some programs or school departments to get more funding than others. It is not ok for teachers to be asking for donations for books, devices, materials, etc. or paying out of the teachers’ pocket for what they need so students can learn the standards that the state requires.

– A teacher in a middle school with 96% low-income students in the Inland Empire

During this time we have all witnessed the huge equity gaps within our educational system. For me, I witnessed huge inequities among the EL/SPED (English Language Learner/ Special Education) students. There are students who are flagged under both umbrellas, however they only receive service from SPED. I want educational leaders to start [asking] questions [such as] 1. Why are there so many EL students being classified as SPED? and 2. What specific supports do we provide these students to help them increase their ELD skills to ensure academic achievement in their second language?

– A teacher in a high school with 51% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

There is such a huge communication gap for many students in regard to their parents/caregivers. If you can find a way to help support the home environment, then distance learning will thrive. Right now it is those teachers who go above and beyond who keep that learning going. Those teachers always go unrecognized and are taken advantage of.

– A teacher in a high school with 65% low-income students in the San Diego Area

Many of my students do not show their video or communicate during class because their environment is loud. Or some of my students are taking on the roles of teaching assistants for their siblings and cannot put 100% of their effort into my classes. Lesson to policy makers: Thinking everyone can be “in school” at the same time and on-line at the same time creates obstacles to families with children at different grade levels.

– A teacher in a high school with 67% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Our most vulnerable students need more support, and we should build this into any plans to reopen schools to students in person.

– A teacher in a middle school with 94% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I really strongly feel that we need to lessen the amount of homework and outside work that we are giving our students. As an adult, I am completely wiped out when my online school day is done. Many teachers are assigning our students multiple assignments per night which they are struggling with. Not surprisingly, our most disadvantaged students are failing to keep up which is adding tremendously to their social and emotional burdens and potentially damaging their self-esteem and perceptions of school forever

– A teacher in a middle school with 94% low-income students in the Inland Empire

We cannot treat this year like a normal year of school. Our most disadvantaged families have systemically been ignored as long as the US educational system has existed, and this year it has been even worse. We need to address the basic (physical and emotional) needs of students and families before considering learning loss, test scores, etc.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 72% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher friends have informed me that they are only able to cover a fraction of the regular curriculum as there is pressure to lower anxiety for students, and they agonize over how these gaps will be made up in subsequent years, especially for those students who were already perhaps years behind.

– A teacher in a middle school with 50% low-income students in the North Coast

Teachers want to get children back to school

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

The teacher’s union doesn’t always represent the majority of teachers. Our union fought to keep our doors closed and teachers teaching from home. Many of us, especially in elementary education fought for the opposite. We saw our students struggling, depressed and lethargic on screen. They are learning to hate reading — “online books.” All our voices should be heard. Parents too. If our Covid nurses and doctors can’t take their school-aged children to school, how can they work full time? Please remember that school for some children is the most healing, safest place for them to be.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 66% low-income students in Northeast California

I think that the next time we experience a global pandemic, we need to think about how we support our society in a way that keeps schools open as much as we can. We should shut down non-essential business and funnel money their way. We should also be focusing on how to bring the younger students back as quickly as we can.

– A teacher in a high school with 85% low-income students in the Sacramento Area

Let our children go to school full time and in person. Let schools be normal. Let students stay home if they are sick or choose a distance learning school choice if that is what they need for their family.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 41% low-income students in the Central Valley

But policymakers should follow the science: first be safe

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Prioritize vaccination roll out and next time listen to the scientists when you make your policy.

– A teacher in a middle school with 71% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Speak the truth. Teachers have always been children advocates. This is a deadly virus: kids are getting it too, but it is the teaching staff and their families who will die. I don’t want to die as I already have had 4 members of my family pass away days apart and alone. Stop the open- then -close- school scenario from happening. Just finish the year out with distance learning to increase herd immunity.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 25% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

There is a [questionable] incentive for schools to reopen: Districts will push to reopen for the money and not because it is actually safe. I think this is wrong. Let schools reopen without risking lives; when it is safe to do so. Don’t offer money to rush people to open; this is so unethical.

– A teacher in a high school with 89% low-income students in Southern California

Health and safety must come first. While these are extraordinary times, all educators know we can get the students back to where they need to be. But we also want to public to understand it is not selfish of us to want our own families to be safe.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the San Diego Area

The first goal should be to keep students and staff safe. If we rush back into the classroom without a vaccine and necessary PPE, then we engage in a loop of closing and opening schools which causes (even) more of a disruption to student learning. Parents should understand that hybrid does not equate to a better education.

– A teacher in a high school with 16% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

Keep us safe. Let all the teachers get vaccinated AND the students. Our lives are more important, and we can’t traumatize the kids more with their teachers getting sick and dying. Continue to find innovative ways to engage our students. We need to think outside the box and find incentives and programs to help families that are truly struggling with balancing work and their child’s distance learning. Get rid of testing. It’s not important during this time. Invest in your teachers’ and students’ emotional health.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 83% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

I think it is important to listen to teacher wants and needs at the local level. Each situation is different, but I don’t think teachers should be forced into in-person teaching if they do not feel safe going back. That being said, we all want to get back into the classroom as soon as we can. If teachers and students are able to get vaccinated and state-wide initiatives genuinely help to slow the spread of the virus, I would be very excited to get to be in a classroom with my students again.

– A teacher in a high school with 15% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

Safety needs to come first before educators go back to the classrooms. Let educators have a voice in the decision and also a seat at the table. Not just in a consultation role.

– A teacher in a high school with 79% low-income students in Southern California

For now, don’t worry about academic losses and drop the testing

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Credits (and educational loss) can be recovered. Lives cannot.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 89% low-income students in the Inland Empire

When we start coming out of this, we have to minimize talk of “learning loss” and “catching up.” Whatever was considered normal before is simply not part of the new normal. Each level of education has to adjust to the reality that new students coming along have had a *different* experience and we need to meet their needs based on that experience, rather than thinking of them all as being damaged, or being behind some benchmarks set long ago by other students. Current students will even have some skills that put them ahead in certain regards.

– A teacher in a high school with 8% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

Also, the fact that testing is still a thing is WILD. How can we possibly test during this time??? It’s an equity issue. My students DO NOT have the same access to learning right now and to make them take a test is baffling to me. When can we finally decide that standardized testing is not an equitable measure of success?

– A teacher in a middle school with 79% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I feel that enforcing state testing this year is simply out of the question. Let us teach as we can, pay attention to social-emotional needs, and not bother with overarching state testing. The small tests (such as the Reading and Math Inventory and the ELPAC) are feasible, but even in a good year, the end of year testing is stressful and “heavy.” I would appreciate another year’s respite from this type of high stakes testing… We see students struggling, and we know that adding on the layer of standardized tests is unnecessary.

– A teacher in a middle school with 24% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

State Testing should be gone during the pandemic and high school students should be given flexibility to obtain course units.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 67% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Get rid of testing. It’s not important during this time. Invest in your teachers’ and students’ emotional health.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 83% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

STOP testing. The time it takes to give a test which will not provide useful information and will only serve to further stress students is simply idiotic.

– A teacher in a middle school with 0% low-income students in the Central Valley

I would also appreciate all standardized tests being canceled. This is not the year to stress students out with testing. Kids literally clapped when they were told last spring that state testing was canceled.

– A teacher in a high school with 38% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Standardized testing needs to stop, ideally entirely, as they are systems of inequity in typical times, but we are being forced to administer them remotely now.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 75% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Two things: Convening teachers, students and families from a variety of backgrounds is the only true way to get a sense of current conditions. Second, I think it is essential to eliminate standardized tests for this year. They will tell us very little and will add to the strain on students and teachers.

– A teacher in a high school with 79% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Please listen to teachers; please support teachers; please value teachers — they are the first responders in education

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Overall, please LISTEN TO TEACHERS. Anyone who has not been teaching during the pandemic has no idea what it is like. Consult with the people working directly with the students: we know what is happening in classrooms and we know what’s best for our kids.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 75% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Continue to talk with teachers and students to find what they are finding successful and what other needs they have.

– A teacher in a middle/high school with 80% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

Please fight for all teachers in the state to get our Cost Of Living or COLA. We’re not asking for major raises; that would be great, but at least the cost of living. I’ve had to spend a lot of my own money to make my school year function with some normalcy. Please work to make it safe for us to return to the classrooms that we miss.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 82% low-income students in the Inland Empire

I hope that this increased appreciation for the incredibly hard work that teachers do will not fade, and will translate into better working conditions and salaries, at least on a par with first responders, as teachers are inarguably society’s heroic, dedicated second responders, vital to maintaining a sense of normalcy during crises, and who are the unseen builders of a nation’s future.

– A teacher in a middle school with 50% low-income students in the North Coast

Instead of acknowledging, commending, and regarding my effort, I find myself tired and being blamed for students’ learning loss and pressure to ‘catch’ students up. This time in history is affecting all lives around the world. Education is not a competition; it’s building our students inside-out getting ready to live life.

– A teacher in a high school with 62% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

The lack of universal health standards (versus “when possible” language), access to testing, and real support for our most under-resourced families is shameful and they have broken the trust of educators that will take a long time to repair. I have never felt resentment before when I have to come in and teach until this year — and that is incredibly heartbreaking given I have poured my heart and soul into my students year after year.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 28% low-income students in the Sacramento Area

Teachers have different feelings about the current situation. Some are anxious to go back, some are wary, and some never want to return, and we all deserve to be heard, not just the loudest among us. I would also like policymakers/leaders/foundations to work hard to see the positives and opportunities presented and act on them moving forward. Additionally, I would love to stop hearing from people outside of education—with little or no reliable evidence to back it up—what we should be doing and why what we’re doing is not working, and how it’s all a disaster. (We all know it’s not ideal, but what positives can we build on from here.…)

– A teacher in an elementary school with 17% low-income students in the North Coast

This may sound harsh and/or it may sound stupendously obvious but here it is: classroom teachers are professional educators. Let us, as the professionals and the experts in the field, lead the way—trust us and our expertise—trust and believe that we well know or understand our jobs or the trials and travails that will likely be encountered when our jobs change. Don’t ask for our input only to ignore it—value it for the professional, experience-based knowledge and expertise that it is. We could save politicians, policymakers, administrators, and the like a lot of wasted time, energy, and money, if you would just listen to us.

– A teacher in a high school with 72% low-income students in the Sacramento Area

Yes, we are trying our best! I feel that the administration at the top level in my district is not truly listening to the teachers. We have knowledge, experience, and ideas about how to change the context here, but our voices are not being heard …

– A teacher in a middle school with 24% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Ask the people in the classrooms what they need. Don’t ask those in the administration offices who don’t have daily contact with students.

– A teacher in a middle school with 85% low-income students in the Central Valley

Supporting teachers with a proper salary, working conditions, and a positive school culture will help teachers stay in their careers long term.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 47% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

You must value teachers in concrete ways (financially, emotionally, and professionally) if you expect them to go above and beyond in difficult situations. Teaching is an incredibly hard job in the best of times. We cannot do everything and be everything for everyone. States need to work on supporting families dealing with food insecurity and mental health issues. Schools cannot be expected to handle all the problems that arise from systemic inequalities AND teach all students to a high level.

– A teacher in a high school with 22% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

System supports for teachers and students are needed but lacking; these supports should not be random but rather need to be engineered

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

We need more supports! Financial, health, resources. Teachers are expected to just get it done, and then be treated as if our lives don’t matter. We already have a shortage of qualified teachers; we need to incentivize the teaching profession!

– A teacher in a high school with 74% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

I appreciate all of the support and positivity that has been sent my way. It makes a huge difference to have leaders who listen and respond when teachers indicate an area of need… ALL students should be supported with reliable internet and one to one devices so that they can work independently and avoid endless frustration on a daily basis. My district has provided hot spots to any family who needed it and one to one devices. I can’t imagine doing a quality job with distance learning without these essentials in place.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 37% low-income students in the North Coast

Teachers need the opportunity to collaborate and participate in professional development to support their continued learning, especially in this time of distance learning. Teachers need encouragement and support to be sure that they are teaching science on a regular basis in the elementary grades. Make sure that they are shown ways that colleagues are doing this successfully so that they can imagine doing the same with their own class. Each school should have a person assigned in the role of support / intervention coordinator so that teachers have a variety of ways to reach their students needing additional support.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 37% low-income students in the North Coast

Why can’t anyone develop a good curriculum to deliver online?

– A teacher in an elementary school with 76% low-income students in Northeast California

There needs to be support aides in TK and K. Please support National Board Certified Teaching with professional and financial support through certification process and financial incentive to put accomplished teachers in every classroom. Many districts value qualified teachers but due to financial difficulties are not supporting the process. It needs to be a statewide policy.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 41% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I think it is important to consider priorities. It feels like a lot of expectations are being added, but I don’t see many being taken away. Teachers and school staff are also struggling with the pandemic: in terms of physical health, mental health, isolation, loss of family income. Especially now, it feels really important that we look at supporting the most vital functions while recognizing that no one can do more than they’re currently doing. When new, better strategies are being added, specific guidance in terms of what is no longer required of schools, teachers, students, etc. should be provided, too.

– A teacher in a high school with 41% low-income students in the Central Coast

To make online learning more effective for our students, teachers need the time and space to share/see best practices, plan and collaborate around common problems of practice that are arising.

– A teacher in a high school with 36% low-income students in the San Diego Area

I noticed the governor threw a bunch of money towards education all at once. It needs to go to class size reduction, revamping the whole educational system, and educating the lower SES on how to value education. One thing that is very clear with distance learning is which parents value education and which parents see education as a babysitting opportunity. Education leaders need to make education be seen as valuable.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 70% low-income students in the Inland Empire

I think it is important that students have stability so it would not be useful to yo-yo between different instruction options. When decisions are made, policy makers should be aware that teachers need time to digest and then plan thoughtfully for the most effective instruction for students. When we first went to distance learning, teachers were asked to change their teaching immediately. This resulted in different levels of success and engagement. As we consider hybrid and eventually a return to in-person instruction we must be given ample planning time and guidance so we can do what is best for our students.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 20% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Blanket strategies (like close down all schools) don’t work. A tiered system so that students who need to be back in school can come back, would be ideal.

– A teacher in a middle school with 91% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

I am passionate about teaching math for the past 25 years. This year has been most challenging given our societal issues. I see challenges as opportunities to teach and grow; however, this year has been difficult with little district support for safer classroom environment, teachers’ COLA that affects personal finance, EL and Special Needs students with no to little support especially in learning mathematics at an Alternative High School setting.

– A teacher in a high school with 62% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

Many districts fall short in the eyes of the teachers

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Districts that do not have qualified people in charge literally leave everything to their staff to make decisions and meet student needs. We are told what we MUST do for students, but we do not receive support from the district office… The amount of $$ spent on the top tier in our districts is atrocious considering all that teachers do on a daily basis… Most of what we have at my site comes from fundraising and grants not my district office.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 67% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

When making policy, be sure there are less “grey areas” left up to the district administration to make decisions without teacher input. Most administrators have been long removed from the classroom and none have taught during a pandemic.

– A teacher in a middle school with 83% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Teachers are doing their best given the situation and have really stepped up to distance learning. Many of them are not ready to go back into schools until it is actually safe for them to do so, and there is a great deal of mistrust towards district leaders.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 88% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Students, teachers, and schools need more resources that go directly to students and teachers, not the pockets of the district. Our students’ safety and mental health are much more important than anything else.

– A teacher in a high school with 70% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Policymakers and all those involved with educational decisions need to have more teacher voices at the table when making policies

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

Teachers MUST be at the forefront of any legislation or decisions made that would impact us. We are highly educated with several degrees and certifications. We have effective ideas to make learning in this situation the best for all stake-holders. But for some reason, we are never really listened to. We may be invited to the table to give input, but our input never seems to be used or taken seriously. What other professionals with the amount of training teachers have had would be so dismissed and treated with such disrespect? We are not glorified babysitters. We are the educators of our community and future citizenry.

– A teacher in a middle school with 86% low-income students in the Inland Empire

Classroom teachers see policymakers and educational leaders as very out-of-touch with the implications of their decisions and are frustrated by what seems to be empty rhetoric of caring about students’ mental health when they have underfunded schools for years. Stop speaking and listen to the educators doing the work who know exactly who is struggling.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 28% low-income students in the Sacramento Area

For the entirety of my career, I have felt that those who “make the decisions” do not actually care what those of us in the field experience and that our views are meaningless in light of other agendas. I would love to see what we experience matter, in general, but especially now.

– A teacher in a middle school with 24% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

Teaching should NOT be a replacement for babysitting. I have taught for 43 years and I do not know when schooling became a place to put your kids so you can work, but I have been most distressed by the lack of parental involvement (due to unfamiliarity with the process) in student learning. When I was in school, evenings were often about discussing what you learned in school. Now it seems the main concern is ‘can you keep my kid at school for at least 6 hours a day so I can work.’ If this is a statement about our economy, then maybe we need to rethink our priorities. Teachers are poorly paid and now poorly covered medically and yet they are tasked with raising the next generation of citizens.
– A teacher in a high school with 35% low-income students in the North Coast

Education has become the catchall for so many other issues of society, but it cannot handle the weight of these burdens. Education and those in the educational sector need more resources and support now more than ever, especially as public opinion now appears to be shifting against us.

– A teacher in a high school with 48% low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area

The pandemic offers an opportunity as well as immense challenges

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

As awful as all of this is, I hope to be able to look back on this and feel really proud of what we did.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 96% low-income students in the North Coast

I appreciate all that people are doing to find innovative ways to make Distance Learning possible.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 94% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Teachers are going through so much right now, and decisions are being made all around us, though nobody is asking for our input on anything. I think now is the time to make DRASTIC educational changes that have been necessary for so long. Kids are struggling, teachers are struggling, and parents are struggling. Let’s act NOW to redesign our education system to best fit students’ needs. Thank you!

– A teacher in a high school with 81% low-income students in the Northern Delta-Sierra Foothills

These issues of vastly inequitable outcomes for students is something that has existed long, long before this pandemic. We need a radical restructuring of how we fund and organize schools so that all students can achieve similar outcomes. Cutting funding for schools and continuing to ask teachers to do more for less is insanity… and those who suffer the most for it are the students.

– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 100% low-income students in the North Coast region

Our kids need small class sizes (12 kids max per class), school mental health professionals, classroom aides, enough money for curriculum and supplies to be paid for by the school and not teachers’ paychecks. This pandemic should be a wake-up call…that radical change is necessary. We need infrastructure to support, affirm, and cultivate all students to reach their full potential; this is vital to creating a more just world…. It’s not enough to send us to a training or to put more work on teachers; we are getting burnt out and fed up. This pandemic has given us a gift; we have the opportunity to restructure our education system to make it a positive and supportive place for every student. Let’s do it!
– A teacher in an elementary/middle school with 100% low-income students in the North Coast region

We can build on this experience to create deeper changes and improvement in the educational system

(Swipe or click right arrow to advance quotes)

This is the time to completely rebuild the educational system. We should be grouping students by developmental needs, NOT putting them in a box by their age. This is failing so many of our students because they are being pushed on to the next grade without mastering foundational concepts; it’s a struggle for them and for us to support them in meeting grade level standards. Expectations need to be adjusted: it’s unrealistic to expect that teachers have covered all standards in all areas and that students have mastered the standards that were taught during this traumatic time.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 75% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

Both students and teachers need to be FULLY SUPPORTED with whatever comes next – standardized testing needs to stop – ideally entirely, as they are systems of inequity in typical times, but we are being forced to administer them remotely now. Mental health needs to be at the forefront and both teachers and students need to be supported with this. Administrators need to put their own agendas aside and do what they can to support their community.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 75% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

I’d like to recommend that the US consider how virtual learning is working out in other nations. I have friends in many countries teaching. There is a discrepancy, even given socioeconomic status, on how students there are working compared to the US.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 93% low-income students in the San Diego Area

I think we need to think about offering continuing online options for some classes and kids when this is over. Some kids are really glad not to have some of the social stresses of school. Also for the many kids in our district who leave the country for weeks at a time to see family, online would be a good option. I also think that when we go back, we need to focus on how to support teachers with behavior issues in classrooms; there often is no backup or help if a kid is really having a bad day, and it disrupts learning for everyone. That is one thing online learning has really made clear: how much energy is spent on behavior vs learning.

– A teacher in a middle school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

I am hoping that one positive of the pandemic is that the public (parents) have an even deeper appreciation for what it is that teachers do every day. I also hope that the state, counties, and districts use this experience to look at what aspects of distance learning were actually beneficial and should continue with in-person teaching. There are aspects of technology that allow for more personalization and convenience for meeting with students one-on-one, etc.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 30% low-income students in the North Coast

Relooking at how specialists and aides are used should be considered as well. We need more trained para-professionals at each site to help with the overall job of educating students, running a campus, etc. Relying on parent volunteers does not cut it for a variety of reasons. Finally, it is critical that teachers have more non-student contact time so that they can evaluate, plan, and adjust their teaching in order to provide the most effective teaching. Set up school environments that are truly supported so that they can be optimum environments of joy and learning.

– A teacher in an elementary school with 30% low-income students in the North Coast

Teaching is a challenge no matter when, where or how you are doing it. Teachers and students will struggle when school resumes in person. Support—academic and social—will be needed on a more profound level than before the pandemic. Students, families and school employees should partner together to rebuild the school community in ways that make sense to their particular needs.

– A teacher in a high school with 90% low-income students in the Central Valley

Distance learning is incredible for some kids and it isn’t only kids who are affluent or native English speakers. Every student learns best in their own way, and the basics of relationships, safety, and security are really the first and most significant things. teaching students and education hopefully will adapt long-term and find ways to offer choice and continuing education in and beyond K-12.

– A teacher in a middle school with 56% low-income students in the San Jose-Monterey Area

I truly believe that this pandemic is a significant opportunity for innovative educators, to push thinking and lay bare the outdated practices we’ve held onto for so long. Seeing difficult times like these as “policy windows” that are open to innovation gives me some hope that good can come from so much suffering.

– A teacher in a high school with 58% low-income students in Northeast California

We cannot go back to “normal.” So many mourn a system that was comfortable and predictable but was woefully broken before Covid hit. We need to look at this experience as a wakeup call, and a violent push towards doing better, and doing differently. It was not working well before, either; we just kept adding band-aids. The system needs an overhaul, and this is the perfect opportunity to rebuild in a different and better way.

– A teacher in a high school with 30% low-income students in the Inland Empire

No matter what, we love what we do and are dedicated to doing our job

Thank you to all those who respect our teaching profession. Though I have been teaching for 20 years, I still get butterflies and look forward to meeting my new class each school year. I am always open to change and willing to do what is right for the students. I have never been one to follow the flock; to the contrary, I have shut negativity out and focused on what matters — teaching and making my students succeed in whatever path they choose to follow. I want to look back…and know that I have left sprinkles of beautiful and amazing individuals that I helped shape along the way and my words of wisdom are passed along for future generations to come!

– A teacher in an elementary school with 90% low-income students in the Los Angeles Area

To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.

Share Article

Comments (3)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Steve Johnson 3 months ago3 months ago

    Unfortunately, public school teachers have been demonized in the press. Any parent who can financially afford a private education for their child has already done so and enrolled them outside of public education.

  2. Gary Nakagiri 5 months ago5 months ago

    I strongly recommend that these reports be made available to the public in a variety of ways, such as special reports that are disseminated through the media (TV, radio) and published (newspapers, social media channels, etc.). The general public needs to know how teachers really feel and think about, all that has occurred during this pandemic. Otherwise, these reports will simply be ignored.

  3. Cindy Friday Beeman 5 months ago5 months ago

    What's missing? Internet availability -- a signal strong enough to play a short video without lagging, to transmit what the teacher or another student said without cutting out half the words, to keep a student's camera on all the time without losing the connection altogether, to support breakout rooms and other resources that boost demand on a system. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other digital pioneers need to solve that issue first. Rural areas … Read More

    What’s missing? Internet availability — a signal strong enough to play a short video without lagging, to transmit what the teacher or another student said without cutting out half the words, to keep a student’s camera on all the time without losing the connection altogether, to support breakout rooms and other resources that boost demand on a system.

    Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other digital pioneers need to solve that issue first. Rural areas – and as I read recently, many low-income urban areas as well – don’t have the digital infrastructure to support distance learning. Talk about inequity. I hope the president’s infrastructure plans deal with that — Chromebooks and hotspots don’t amount to jack with a weak, unreliable connection.