Teachers of America and the Covid-19 Pandemic

“Teaching is both an art and a science. Teaching is conceptual and intellectual, abstract, and concrete, creative, and sequential. It’s about people but framed through ideas. It’s about content, hearts, minds, the past, the future–whatever we can imagine, teaching and learning are both causes and effects.”1

Impact of Covid-19 on Teachers

In 2018 teachers were protesting around the United States. Why? Issues with wages and budget cuts, which had a heavy negative impact on their lives. Did this same burden not weigh down everyone else whose employment was impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic? The answer is a resounding “yes”, however this was just the surface of the deep-rooted toll Covid-19 has taken on teachers; they had a lot more to lose than money.

It is long-standing common knowledge that teachers do not choose their profession because of the salary. The average teacher salary in the United States in 2018-19 was $58,540. In 2009-10, right before the Great Recession hit state budgets, the average teacher salary was $61,804, the SREB report says.
It took ten years for policymakers’ efforts to gradually improve the financial issues amongst public-school teachers across the nation, and the Covid-19 Pandemic threatened all the progress made. In addition to the already problematic teacher pension structures across the United States, now 3.3-million teachers are faced with the threat of having their pensions irreparably damaged.

More to Lose

According to Education Week², Coronavirus has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands—young and old, men and women, people of all backgrounds. Among the educators we’ve lost was a teacher who’d taught her students online the day before she died. Another was a school climate counselor at his alma mater who supported students struggling with behavior. Some of them had retired but are still vividly remembered for their deep impact on students’ lives. As of Sept. 17, 2021, at least 1,116 active and retired K-12 educators and personnel have died of COVID-19. Of those, 361 were active teachers.

It has now been two years since the first protests began, and teaching looks more different than ever before. The American education system has struggled to educate 50 million students. From lockdowns to quarantines, vaccines to masks, online learning versus in person; the list goes on. Teachers were never prepared to face something like this, and there was no clear-cut way to handle the chaos during Covid. Given that the Nation, let alone state and local governments weren’t prepared for how to handle a Pandemic, teachers were left in the dark.

Whenever some guidelines began to emerge for the current school year, each school district had different systems and rules. Some parents wanted mask mandates dropped, some teachers didn’t. Some teachers pushed for the requirement of a Covid-19 vaccination for both their peers and students, while some refused and sued school districts. Some teachers had ultimately adapted well, as had their students, regarding the transition to complete online learning. Some parents no longer worked remote and needed their kids back in a physical classroom.

Teachers have no direct control regarding any of these matters, but as previously stated, they have a lot more to lose than some of their salary. Both old and potential new relationships with students and/or their families were impacted. The camaraderie they once had with their peers while teaching in the classroom was taken from under them. Finances set aside; teachers have had to adapt to ways of teaching that they themselves were never taught. It has wreaked havoc on them mentally and emotionally. Some teachers have lost their careers completely due to issues with the school systems and the handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Most teachers begin their teaching journeys to have a direct impact on individual lives, help shape the future of our society,

‘Your work is not to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new awareness. Your job is to simply do your work… sacredly, secretly, silently … and those with “eyes to see and ears to hear’ will respond.’ –The Arturians

Teachers Focus on the Positive in the Face of “New Normal”

Despite the challenges incurred, in true teacher fashion, many have found ways to focus on the positive aspects of teaching and learning that have resulted from the need to adapt to unforeseen changes.

In this compilation, educators in the TED-Ed community from around the world reflect on the challenges they have faced, demonstrate the resilience they’ve mastered, and remind us of the importance of sharing gratitude with our educators now more than ever. ³

¹ TeachThought. 50 of the Best Quotes About Teaching.https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/great-best-quotes-about-teaching/.

² Since 1981, Education Week has been America’s most trusted resource for K-12 education news and information. 1.6+ million readers. National coverage. From teachers to principals to district leaders across the country. Education Week’s diverse audience turns to us for the most up-to-date information on K-12 education in the U.S., as well as innovative, high-value tools and solutions.

³During the COVID-19 pandemic, classrooms and education norms around the world changed almost overnight. Education as we knew it seems permanently altered, yet educators must carry on. Each educator featured in this video submitted their reflection using TED Masterclass, TED-Ed’s program designed to help educators develop their big ideas in education.