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

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP execute search warrant; illegal drugs seized

Two Wetaskiwin residents have been charged with possession and trafficking of Methamphetamine.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Most Read