COVID-19 Educator’s Mental Health: ‘Unsure That We Are Meeting the Needs of Our Students’

3 min read Studies suggest the mental health of teachers could be at risk due to the abrupt switch to virtual learning due to COVID-19.

Woman teaching

Photo Credit: (You X Ventures) Virtual learning, as compared to in-person learning, has made some teachers feel as if they are not working to their full potential.

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By McKenzie Lewis | mlewis99@radford.edu

COVID-19 has impacted most teachers across the nation, and studies suggest their mental health could be at risk due to the abrupt switch to virtual learning.

Many researchers have already conducted studies on the burnout rate for teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many researchers have already conducted studies on the burnout rate for teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of which, conducted in Southern California schools, has found evidence that teachers’ well-being has taken a toll.

According to Dr. Amy Bintliff, an author for Psychology Today magazine, “All teachers reported a sense of worry and concern for students.”

The initial drop off of communication and in-person meeting also created “a kind of grieving for some educators that generally was not being acknowledged or supported,” Dr. Bintliff said.

Even further than grieving, reports have shown that some educators may have even experienced a type of trauma called secondary trauma.

Men learning
Photo Credit: (Science in HD) Another concern of many teachers is that children are suffering a massive loss in going completely virtual.

“Secondary trauma is an indirect exposure to trauma through a first-hand account or narrative of a traumatic event, and studies reveal that it does affect school personnel,” Dr. Bintliff said.

While teachers listened to children’s stories of being quarantined in inadequate homes or going hungry, secondary trauma symptoms began to arise in many educators.

Lynda Shifflett, a second-grade teacher for Rockingham County Public Schools, said adjusting to new learning is a job requirement in teaching, but virtual learning has been challenging.

“The enormous task of converting to virtual learning within a relatively short amount of time was, and continues to be, an overwhelming but necessary task,” Shifflett said. “It is an extremely time-consuming, exhausting, and stressful task.”

Virtual learning, as compared to in-person learning, has made some teachers feel as if they are not working to their full potential.

Shifflett also said it has taken a toll on her mental health and suggests other teachers feel the same. “I don’t think there is an elementary school teacher out there that would say that they are presently enjoying their job,” she said.

Virtual learning, as compared to in-person learning, has made some teachers feel as if they are not working to their full potential.

“Normally, teachers are exhausted at the end of the day because we haven’t sat down once unless it was on the floor during circle time, but we could feel satisfied that we had done the best job we could possibly do to enrich our student’s lives,” Shifflett said.

“Now, we are mentally exhausted and physically stressed because we are cut off from that interaction and are unsure that we are meeting the needs of our students despite the hours of planning and preparation,” Shifflett said.

Another concern of many teachers is that children are suffering a massive loss in going completely virtual.

“They need personal interaction with their teacher and peers to grow emotionally and socially … none of that is possible in the virtual world,” Shifflett said.

Other teachers have taken to social media to express their stresses of this school year.

Teaching in a classroom
Photo Credit: (NeONBRAND) Secondary trauma symptoms began to arise in many educators.

Alexandra Finley, an assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburg, wrote in a Twitter post, “Admin in 2020: please be prepared to teach online, in person, both simultaneously, on a moving train, while juggling, in a burning building, under the sea, during a wrestling match with a T-Rex, as a hologram, and riding a unicorn. Also, be safe, and we value you.”

Though joking about the circumstance can help teachers let off some steam, national studies have developed ways for teachers to take care of themselves and make sure their mental health is in check.

Erin McClintock, at Everfi, recently released an article detailing ten ways for teachers to boost their mental health. “Control the controllable, model self-compassion, and reach out” are just a few on the list of tips.

McClintock suggests that teachers reach out to a counselor for guidance, especially if they have severe or negative thoughts.

McKenzie Lewis
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