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Student social and emotional health, on top of teacher burnout and learning hurdles, are challenging teachers in another pandemic-driven school year

3 major challenges teachers are juggling in the pandemic


Student social and emotional health, on top of teacher burnout and learning hurdles, are challenging teachers in another pandemic-driven school year

Student behavior and social-emotional health remain the top challenge for teachers this year, according to a recent survey from the nonprofit Leanlab Education.

Leanlab surveyed more than 240 teachers in its report, Tell Us How You Really Feel: A Survey of Teacher Sentiment, to better understand the main challenges and successes teachers are facing almost two years into the pandemic.

“We’ve heard a lot about how teachers are feeling from an outside perspective,” said Katie Boody, CEO of Leanlab. “But we wanted to make sure the teacher’s perspective wasn’t lost and the challenges that they self-identify are the same ones that we’re putting resources towards addressing.”

The survey is representative of 14 different charter schools and public school districts across Missouri and Kansas in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Teachers responded to open-ended questions asking them to identify the challenges and successes of the current school year. 

Through this survey, Leanlab identified three major challenges that teachers are facing.

Student Behavior and Social and Emotional Well-Being

Student behavior was the most common challenge that teachers reported. The transition to in-person learning has been a challenge for students as they re-establish routines, schedules, and expectations after multiple months of virtual learning.

Teacher Burnout

Similar to health workers and emergency services, teachers are feeling the wider challenges of the pandemic more acutely this year. Teachers reported feeling burned out due to a number of stressors including increased workload, staffing shortages, and general anxiety around health and safety protocols.

Student Learning Challenges

The third challenge teachers are facing is the necessity of teaching a single class with a wide spectrum of learning levels. Some students are experiencing ongoing learning loss from the past two years, while others may have been out for two weeks for a positive Covid test and each presents a unique set of challenges.

While education currently faces many ongoing challenges, there are still many bright spots to celebrate.

The survey results indicate that many teachers remain optimistic and have found areas of success that include:

Relationships and Engagement with Students

The ability for schools to have some sense of normalcy, however fleeting, this year has been one of the biggest successes according to teachers. With the return of in-person instruction, teachers have been able to build relationships and support students.

Teacher Collaboration

Survey responses also indicate that one of the benefits of returning to in-person instruction is the increased ability to collaborate with other teachers and staff members which can contribute to collective problem solving and teacher resilience.

The results from this emergency needs survey provide a deeper understanding and additional context to the challenges that teachers face and areas where they have found success during this academic year.  Leanlab plans to use this information to provide additional support for schools and inform education technology companies about areas where product improvements could have the greatest impact.

“When we do research, it’s not about sending a survey into the ether and waiting for responses,” said Jorge Holguin, Chief Learning Officer at Leanlab. “We went to the schools, sat down with teachers, and made room to listen. We hope that this way of collecting data, allows for more authentic and candid responses.”

“This survey has made us even more grateful for the work that teachers are doing,” said Boody. “But gratitude is just a starting point and it isn’t a sustainable plan to keep teachers in the profession. We need to rethink how and why children are learning and teachers, administrators and students need to be the ones leading the conversation.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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