If school system leaders are to make equity a priority as education moves forward during this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, teacher work environments will have to evolve.
The pandemic struck in the middle of social unrest as U.S. citizens called for action to combat racism and economic inequities. The pandemic highlighted existing educational inequities, drawing attention to large gaps in internet and device access along with differences in family structures and parents’ ability to work from home and help their children with virtual learning. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and their families have been disproportionately impacted.
A new report from 100Kin10 pulls from teachers’ experiences during the pandemic and identifies changes that can improve teaching environments to make the profession more resilient and adaptable.
The report also seeks to identify the lessons should teachers and schools should take with them as they move back to in-person learning, and how the education system can address systemic inequities that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students struggled with before the pandemic–inequities that were only increased once the pandemic hit?
1. Don’t make teachers, students, or families go it alone. Invest in the systems that enable successful teaching and learning. Schools and districts should continue to prioritize getting reliable devices and internet connections to families. They should use consistent technology platforms and processes, and they should invest in SEL and mental health supports for students.
2. Support and give teachers time to realistically reinvent their job. Give teachers more time during the school day and week to plan their instruction and complete day-to-day work. Encourage teachers to collaborate and share best practices, and make sure teachers have resources demonstrating what effective virtual instruction and assessment look like.
3. Localize decision making and prioritize responsiveness to teacher needs. District leaders must understand what teachers need in light of the day-to-day reality of teaching. Prioritize quality over quantity.
4. Prioritize teacher social and emotional well-being and physical health in word and action. Invest in supports for teachers’ social and emotional well-being and mental health, and make their health and safety a priority.
5. Foster strong, personal relationships between students and teachers who remain in a virtual setting. Establish clearer expectations for student participation in virtual learning that take into account instructional needs and teacher and family context.