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

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

100 Women Who Care make a donation to Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Bethany Care Centre. Photo By Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
100 Women Who Care donate to four Sylvan Lake groups

The Food Bank, Bethany Sylvan Lake, Community Partners and the Library all received a donation

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read