A man sanitizes tabletop surfaces in a kindergarten classroom at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Monday, September 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Pandemic concerns: Teachers worried about their health, quality of education

Teachers are feeling stressed about becoming sick, unable to adapt to the new hybrid teaching system

Kelly Main says she has never felt as exhausted and stressed during her 27 years of teaching high school as she has since returning to the classroom this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As someone who teaches Grades 10 and 12 in Waterloo, Ont., she is facing the challenge of delivering material to students in class and online at the same time.

Waterloo Region School Board, like many others across the country, has adopted a hybrid system to have a smaller number of students in class at one time in a bid to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks.

“We’re expected to deliver the material every day to both cohorts,” she said of the 15 students she has in class with her and the other 15 who are studying remotely from home. The two groups switch places every five days.

“You’re never going to be on the same page because it’s obviously harder to be working online.”

Rachel Collishaw, president of the Ontario History and Social Science Teachers’ Association, says teachers are putting their students’ well-being above their own mental health, which she thinks will end up causing long-term problems with stress.

Teachers are feeling stressed about becoming sick, but also being unable to adapt to the new hybrid teaching system, Collishaw said.

“It’s basically doubling the workload on top of the COVID stress.”

A recent survey of high school teachers from the Association for Canadian Studies found 78 per cent of respondents were afraid of getting COVID-19. Only 40 per cent said they were confident upholding safety protocols within their own classrooms.

The online survey of 250 high school teachers, mostly from Ontario and Alberta, was conducted from Sept. 4 to 14. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

“A lot of these teachers, I would argue, also are on the front line,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies.

And while about three-quarters of high school teachers who responded to the online survey said they understand the measures needed to support the well-being of students during the pandemic, Jedwab said it is concerning the rest did not.

“Teachers need more support in terms of addressing the challenges that they’re facing with respect to the effects of the pandemic,” he said.

On top of wearing a mask, goggles and using hand sanitizer dozens of times a day, Main says making sure that students follow those measures too is now also part of her workload.

“It’s a lot more time,” she said.

“It’s exhausting because of course we’re shouting through our masks and through our facial shields or goggles to be heard.”

Even all those measures do not necessarily make her feel safe.

She said one of her students emailed her that she had a sore throat and a headache, which made Main concerned about her health.

Main, 53, has also stayed up until after midnight in recent weeks marking assignments and recording videos for her students.

“The day never ends,” she said. “It never ends.”

She also noted that some teachers are in an even tougher position, such as those who are newer to the profession or have younger children in the classroom.

“I consider myself to be in a pretty good position right out and I am still stressed,” she said.

She said she is worried that things could get worse.

“I don’t know really how the others are coping,” she said.

“I think we might be headed for some real burnouts.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Troy McMillan was flown to a Vancouver hospital Oct. 18 after falling into the boards while playing hockey Oct. 11. (Submitted Photo)
Quesnel family “overwhelmed” by support after hockey injury

Troy McMillan is fighting for his life after tumbling into the boards Oct. 11

Current students from Quesnel Junior School help break the ground at the construction site of the new Junior School. The project has been in development since 2005, and it is expected to be completed in 2022. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel School District “COVID-free”

Superintendent Sue-Ellen Miller is happy with how two September exposure events were handled

This Google Maps screenshot shows the Highway 97 intersection at Juniper Road that is being deactivated in South Quesnel. (Google Maps screenshot)
Juniper Road intersection being deactivated in South Quesnel

Traffic can no longer enter or exit Highway 97 at Juniper Road in a move to improve road safety

Quesnel was hit with unseasonably October snowfall earlier this week. More is on the way on Sunday, Oct. 25 and Monday, Oct. 26, and Quesnel and North Cariboo are under a winter storm warning. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
UPDATE: Winter storm warning ends for Quesnel

10-20 cm of snow and freezing rain was expected to start Sunday night

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

Most Read