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

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

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
YPR is not immune to plummeted air travel demands – 25 jobs lost

Prince Rupert Regional Airport flight cancellation will levee significant hardship - Rick Leach

Air Canada announced on Jan 13, that it is reducing operations by 25 per cent affecting flights into and from Prince Rupert.
Flights to Prince Rupert cancelled

Air Canada announced reduction in operation and more than 1,700 employees affected

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Screenshot from video.
2 students arrested in assault of transgender girl at Lower Mainland school

Mother says daughter was targeted because of how she identifies

Constable Ken Jaques broke a window and crawled into a home to rescue an elderly man who had be laying on the floor for days. Jaques was the officer who provided oversight for the 2020 Remembrance Day services and is shown here in a picture with his son. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Senior who fell and spent days lying on floor of home saved by Princeton cop

He broke the glass and crawled into the house, while calling for assistance from BC Ambulance

Luke Marston works on the seawolf mask for Canucks goalie Braden Holtby. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
B.C. Coast Salish artist designs new mask for Canucks goalie

Braden Holtby’s new mask features artwork by Luke Marston inspired by the legend of the seawolf

Most Read