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Teachers feeling exhausted, isolated during pandemic: ATA

Last Updated Jun 10, 2020 at 10:14 am MDT

Child doing homework and writing story essay. Elementary or primary school class. Closeup of hands and colorful pencils. (CREDIT: iStock)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – After close to three months of working from home, Alberta teachers say they’re feeling exhausted and disconnected with worries over students having a hard time with trying to adapt to remote learning.

That’s according to the results of a pandemic survey released by the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA).

Nearly 80 per cent of teachers said their student’s readiness to learn and ability to focus has gone down while 67 per cent said students’ commitment to checking in online every day is also dropping.

“It tells me a little bit about the heart of what teachers are all about that they’re worried about their kids and, sometimes, in this remote kind of emergency teaching, they feel a little bit helpless in being able to help those students because we’re so disconnected right now,” said ATA President Jason Schilling.

Schilling added losing support staff due to budget cuts have created even more stresses with a majority of teachers saying they feel exhausted, and just under half say they’re getting enough sleep.

“To be working from home you tend to feel isolated. I know a lot of teachers are also worried about their students who are working from home in isolated factors as well.”

The study one of the biggest concerns for teachers heading back to school in the fall include safety measures like physical distancing, the use of protective equipment, large class sizes and cleanliness.

Other concerns that came forward include student learning needs, particularly for vulnerable children and the overall well-being of students.

“The teacher has become the student when dealing with this pandemic and how to deliver emergency remote teaching,” said ATA President Jason Schilling. “We’re still learning what works, what needs to improve and what still needs to happen. This study provides us with the template to move forward with an informed and measured approach if we resume classes in the fall.”

More than 8,000 teachers and school leaders were surveyed between Apr. 27 and May 15 and asked questions about well-being, equity, technology use, pedagogical practices and the return to public school buildings.

The poll found 70 per cent of teachers are feeling exhausted with almost as many feeling isolated since schools were closed to students in March.

About 35 per cent of staff said they’re taking on some of the trauma their students are feeling and worried about whether they’re safe and have enough to eat.

“This research study captures the pulse of the profession at this historical moment and provides clear direction for re-entry into our public schools,” said ATA associate coordinator of research Dr Philip McRae.

“It details how hard our colleagues have been working to create stability and continuity for our students and the public education system.”

A majority also said they don’t feel the same emotional connection to their students as they did before the pandemic.

Schilling said the results of the study will help their approach as they plan for September.

The province has not yet decided on what classes will look like for the fall, as Education Minister Adriana LaGrange proposed three possible scenarios ranging from continuing online learning to allowing classes to resume like normal.