What Teachers Wish the Public Knew About Their Jobs During COVID-19

May 05, 2020

When school buildings across the country closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, many teachers had about a weekend’s notice—if that—to gather up their belongings and reimagine their classrooms from their homes. The hurried nature of the move to remote learning meant many educators never got a chance to hug their students one more time, to look them in the eyes and ask if they are OK or to tell them goodbye.

Though most teachers are checking in with their students virtually, via Zoom, Google Classroom or some other video-calling mechanism, it’s not the same as face-to-face interaction. After going from spending hours a day together to hardly any face-to-face time at all, the reality is teachers really miss their students.

That was one of the most emphatic answers teachers gave when EdSurge asked 15 of them, What is one thing about your job you wish the public knew? For many, the “one thing” is that they really love their students, and during this time of isolation and uncertainty, they miss them a lot.

Teachers also said they wish the public knew just how hard they work, how much of themselves they pour into their teaching and some of the lesser-known skills and savvy that teaching requires. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’ve rounded up some of their answers below.

What it takes to be a teacher

Sabrina Burroughs, kindergarten teacher at Eagle Academy PCS at Capitol Riverfront in Washington, D.C.:

“I wish the public knew that communication is the key, just like in every relationship. Establishing an open and transparent line of communication with families is key to educational success and positive relationship-building.

“Also, this job and taking care of someone else's child cannot be done without empathy, sympathy, guidance and understanding. At the end of the day, we are all human, and families have a lot that happens daily that may, in an instant, just require a listening ear or a moment of understanding or support, outside of a teacher’s job description or boundaries.”

Stephen Guerriero, sixth grade teacher at Needham Public Schools in Needham, Mass.:

“I think one thing that I would love for parents and families to keep in mind is that while they have their child who has their individual experience, on my end I have 100 children whose individual experiences I need to plan for and take into consideration. What takes one student 15 minutes to do may take another student an hour. When parents question things like assignments, or the practice of teaching that they see through their lenses, they may not be aware of the overall state of the class, or the range of abilities, disabilities, interests and considerations that go into the planning and teaching.”


See also: Want to Show Teachers You Appreciate Them? A Simple Note Is All It Takes


Susanna Stratford, third grade teacher at Maple Hills Elementary in Renton, Wash.:

“I wish the public knew how creative a teacher must be to motivate students. The foundation for great teaching is building great relationships.”

“I truly believe that the emotional well-being of the student and family comes first. If they are struggling with the content, reach out to me. You are not alone. I wish I could say, ’Have some daily fun together’ as an assignment! If everyone has peace of mind in whatever way [they can], then learning is easier. A brain experiencing trauma learns nothing. And, give the teacher some grace. This isn't easy for us either.”

Kim Booth, sixth grade teacher at Coleman Middle School in Duluth, Ga.:

“I wish the public knew how creative a teacher must be to motivate students. The foundation for great teaching is building great relationships.”

Gabriel Vogel, 11th grade teacher at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va.:

“[I wish they knew] how much fun the job is, plus a lot of work, a lot of diplomacy, a lot of psychology and a lot of mental and emotional energy to help young people become high functioning adults.”

How much teachers care about their kids

Charlie Mirus, eighth grade English/language arts teacher at Loveland Middle School in Loveland, Ohio:

“There’s so much that has changed about schooling in the past month, with much being focused on how teachers deliver their content and how students will adapt to a new style of instruction.

“One of the things lost in all of that discussion has been the social aspects of school. I wish everyone understood that one of the hardest parts for teachers has been to—almost in the blink of an eye—have those relationships with our students completely changed, sometimes reduced to two or three massive video conferences a week. Relationships built on trust and shared experiences, even with the most ‘connected’ students, have been greatly reduced during this time. That has been very hard for teachers to experience, and that has been the case for several of my students that have reached out to me as well.”

Claire Peterson, middle school teacher at Pat Neff Middle School in San Antonio, Texas:

“This isn't the same. This ‘new normal’ isn't what I want, or what most teachers want. I'm not on summer vacation. I miss my kids. I miss teaching like I used to. Zoom isn't the same as being in my class with all my kids and seeing them interact with each other and with me. Teachers want to be with our students, doing what we do best. Teaching them. In person. Watching them grow up, watching them learn right before our eyes.”

Jill Armstrong, social studies teacher at Greenup County High School in Greenup, Ky.:

“The majority of us that go into education do it because we care about students and their future. It doesn’t matter what kind of student they are, we want the best for them. Our heart soars when they achieve their goals and it breaks when they have struggles. You become a teacher because it is a calling, it is inside us and it is our passion. We do it for the kids.”

Alexandria Adams, 10th grade teacher at Woodside High School in Newport News, Va.:

“We love your kids. We want them to be successful. We aren't out to get your child. We need your help!”

Sheri Clyde, first grade teacher at Mary Finn School in Southborough, Mass.:

“How much I miss and love my students!”

How hard teachers work

Erin Haley, middle school teacher at The Bayshore School in Daly City, Calif.:

“I am on Zoom for five to six hours a day, which is not something I am used to. To go from moving around and interacting with all my students and fellow teachers/staff around our school campus, to sitting in front of a computer all day is a HUGE shift, and not one I was prepared for.

“Our bodies are not meant to sit and stare into a screen all day. Not all of us teachers have desks or spaces to work, just like some of our students. I am thankful for being able to continue to teach and reach my students via technology, but I long for the day when I no longer have to sit on Zoom all day.”

Lisa Mims, fifth grade teacher at Colonial School District in New Castle, Del.:

“Most educators want what is best for their students. Because of that, we put in hours and hours beyond a ‘normal’ work day to make it happen. Our ‘teacher brain’ never fully turns off.”

Barbara A. Noppinger, eighth grade teacher at Dumbarton Middle School in Towson, Md.:

“I wish they knew the hours upon hours I have spent attempting to provide a place to visit in the remote learning world for their child. A place where students WANT to be. A place where we still learn together, just in a different way. A place where it is okay to laugh, sigh or even be scared. Every choice I as the teacher make is fueled by how I can help your student, especially now.”

Faye McDonough, eighth grade teacher at Headwaters Academy, Independent Middle School, in Bozeman, Mont.:

“It is the hours spent reading, researching and finding the best ways to teach during this time. Also, we try to recognize [all] the needs of the students—not just the obvious ones.”


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