Do Families Now Understand What It Takes to Be a Teacher?

May 06, 2020

Over the past two months, with school buildings closed to curb the spread of COVID-19, parents and guardians have taken on more active roles in their children’s learning experiences. Overnight, many parents—especially those with younger children—have been thrust into the role of homeschool teachers.

In some ways, the sudden change has given parents a newfound appreciation for the work teachers do day in and day out, and the challenges they face working with dozens of young people at a time. (This message has perhaps been clearest on social media, where many parents overseeing their children’s educations are suggesting teachers be paid more.)

For Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked 15 educators to tell us whether the new arrangement really has changed parents’ perceptions of their jobs. Specifically, we asked: Do more families understand what it takes to do your job now that they’ve had to take on some of the responsibilities themselves? How can you tell?

Below are some of their responses, and as you’ll see, many educators are experiencing this issue quite differently.

A resounding ‘yes’

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

“Yes! I am hoping that parents can appreciate and understand, even more now, all that teachers do to be surrogate parents and help them help their child in the school setting. I think the teaching profession and teachers will be looked at much differently now, due to this crisis.”

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

“YES! They try to support me and realize how overwhelming it can be with one child. Also the parents who are in the room when I am teaching via Zoom definitely have gained an understanding of what it’s like working with 20-plus children, as opposed to just their child.”

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

“YES THEY HAVE! One family reached out and said they have a deeper understanding of all we do as teachers and apologized for ever being difficult.”


See more: 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’ve been given kudos from parents who have been somewhat uninvolved throughout the year, which feels amazing! The parents of my students have extended me so much grace when I make a technical mistake. They know that I continue to try to create a familial and fun environment for my students and they send their gratitude for the small things now.”

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

“I think so, yes. They have been very appreciative of what we’ve been able to do.”

It’s not that simple

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

“I don’t believe parents will ever truly understand what it takes to be an educator, until they are in the classroom with 15 to 25 or more learners at the same time. However, as I smile answering this question, I recall the parents who’ve asked for my address to jokingly drop their kid off at my front door. I think of the texts and email messages of gratefulness, for just reaching out to meet the needs of the families’ new schedule, created by this ‘new normal.’ I’ve had fully educated parents tell me that they appreciate what I do, coupled with those now infamous words, ‘I don’t know how or why you teach.’”

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

“I think yes and no, because they know now how important school is for their students [beyond] academics, including socializing with friends and having extracurricular activities available to keep kids’ bodies active as well as their minds.

“Parents may understand the struggle to get students to complete assignments when they’d rather be playing video games or on their phones, but they don’t have to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work still, like creating the lessons, trying to differentiate for different learners or delivering content in an engaging and accessible way. But I’m betting many do have a newfound appreciation for teachers and schools and what we do for kids.”


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


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

“I hope so! But we aren’t out there trying to push that. We are working with students, parents, and guardians the best ways we can to make sure there is still some form of learning being achieved. How can we tell? We hear it! Social media shows many parents who are attempting to help teach their students in subjects they’ve not used themselves in perhaps 10 years or more. I’ve offered my support to anyone, even outside of my district.”

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

“I would guess maybe 50 percent of families get it. I have had a few calls with parents where gratitude has been expressed. I think it is imperative to be cognizant that many families may have far more pressing concerns at this time.”

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

“Families may not fully understand what it takes to be a teacher, but they are understanding the amount of patience and creativity it takes to consistently motivate students.”

Not quite, but they’re getting there

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

“I feel like more families are starting to understand what it takes for teachers to motivate students a little more now that we are in this world of remote learning. As a middle school teacher, I know parents of some of my students are needing to help out with some elements of instruction and further explanation, but it’s not to the degree it would be for a parent working with his or her child in kindergarten.

“My wife and I have six kids, including twins in preschool and another child who is in kindergarten. As we are both middle school teachers, my wife and I now have an even greater appreciation for what it takes to work with students who are just starting their educational journeys.”

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

“I would say that there are some who definitely do. It’s hard managing one child of your own every day. I think seeing that, and then extrapolating that to the 30-plus students we see every day, gives some families perspective. We are all working together for your children.”

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

“I think parents, like all of us, are grappling with this new reality—and those feelings have changed over time as we’ve been home week after week. At first, there was a bit of a grace period when it felt more like a long weekend or vacation. Soon, though, parents struggled with replicating some of the structure and scheduling of the day for kids. More and more, our district heard from parents asking for more face time with teachers, more work from classes, and help in managing the days and weeks with routine and structure.

“Once all of those things ramped up, though, more parents expressed feeling overwhelmed by work, and asked for more flexibility. Some even made the decision to step back and essentially withdraw their kids from remote learning altogether. I think, at this point, many parents have a much better sense of just how dynamic and challenging the work of schools can be.”


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