A recent NPR and Ipsos poll asked teachers around the country their thoughts on returning to the classroom, distance learning, and a host of other topics now that the school year is here or fast approaching across the United States. The upshot? Most teachers fear a return to school due to coronavirus.
The poll included more than 500 teachers from all grade levels, K-12, across the US but even with that varied sample there seemed to be a general consensus amongst teachers: They’re worried for their safety and the safety of their students. Eighty-two percent of K-12 teachers are concerned about returning to in-person teaching this fall. Around three-quarters are concerned about accessing sufficient personal protective equipment and cleaning materials (78%), risking their own health (77%), and connecting to students while wearing a mask (73%).
The poll indicates that the sentiment amongst educators is the same across the county.
“We are seeing a clear line of consensus across the country and there are not significant differences depending on where you live,” Mallory Newall, Director of Research at Ipsos tells Parentology.
While teachers are concerned about returning in person, it’s also clear that if safety wasn’t a concern, in-person teaching is their overwhelming preference. Many of the teachers polled expressed their concerns about distance learning. Indeed, 84% expressed concern that distance learning would both create gaps in opportunities for students and cause students to fall behind.
“There’s no question that the teachers we surveyed here love what they do,” Newall says. “Seventy percent said that if they could pick a career all over again, they would still decide to be a teacher, so it’s certainly not for lack of commitment, but it’s a safety concern. They’re worried about their well-being, their family’s well-being, and their students’ well-being.”
Teachers are concerned that their districts do not have sufficient plans in place. There is also concern that many districts lack the funding to provide what is needed to keep faculty, staff and students safe.
“One of the most widespread concerns for teachers is the ability to access sufficient protective equipment and cleaning materials to teach in person,” Newall states. Likewise, as decisions are made about how school starts, many teachers feel left out of the conversation. “Most teachers in this poll feel they do not have a voice in how their district responds to the pandemic.”
However, even with the lack of information, teachers polled overwhelmingly showed support and confidence in their individual school administrators. With all of the uncertainty most teachers will return to the classroom if asked.
“Fewer than 1 out 5 say that it’s unlikely they’ll return to teaching if they had to go back in person,” Newall notes, adding that this number has not changed significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. However, that number equates to about 16% of teachers, which could ultimately impact a profession already experiencing a shortage.
It appears that the fears of the teachers polled is not unfounded. CNN reports that more than 2,000 students and teachers across five states have already been quarantined since returning to school. Nearly 100,000 kids tested positive for coronavirus in the last two weeks of July alone. As the school year begins, teachers across the country struggle with the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
Teachers Return to School Coronavirus — Sources
Mallory Newall, Director of Research, Ipsos