WRITTEN BY Alexandra Plummer • 4 min
Learning during a pandemic has been an uphill battle for students, schools, teachers and parents alike.
As COVID-19 cases in schools continue to rise, and protocols and measures continue to pivot to try to curb the spread in schools specifically, students and teachers are reporting higher levels of stress.
Teacher’s mental health has been tested day in and day out as they are faced with ever changing measures to keep school COVID cases as low as possible.
Student ability to concentrate and learn has also been negatively affected by the pandemic. Whether in-class where students face stringent PPE and social distancing protocols, or in remote or hybrid learning environments that themselves present a whole new set of challenges, students’ academic success is suffering.
But what can be done?
The first step is to understand the impact of COVID cases in schools as a stress factor so that schools can create structures to promote safe and healthy environments for everyone.
Let’s explore the following factors in more detail:
- The physical and mental health impact of COVID in schools on teachers and students.
- How the new learning environment impacts teachers and students.
- How stress-caused burnout impacts teachers and students.
The physical and mental health impact of COVID in schools on teachers and students
The mental and physical health impacts of trying to maintain education during this pandemic are ongoing. This is true for both the educators trying to impact knowledge, as well as the students trying to absorb and retain it.
We know that fear and stress do not make for optimal learning conditions. And we know that the fear of the health, social and financial implications of catching the virus is very real – even with the measures and precautions being enforced by schools, districts and government at varying levels.
According to the American Psychological Association, high stress weakens the immune system, which means the inherent mental anxiety teachers and students have as a result of the virus puts them at a greater physical risk of getting sick.
In short, mental stress can have real physical impact.
For students who live in unstable households, this is an even greater concern as research and data show that abuse and neglect of young people is on the rise.
Schools are often a safe haven; a source of nourishment, security and reprieve. The unprecedented measures being used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 cases in schools have unintended consequences as students have less contact with adults outside their home environment.
This is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking impacts of the pandemic as it relates to the changes to education.
How the new learning environment impacts teachers and students
In addition to the fear and anxiety that the virus itself presents, the education sector was thrown into chaos last year when countries around the world went into lockdown.
That chaos has subsided, but the resulting learning environments established to try to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in schools are far from perfect solutions.
The concept of “Zoom fatigue” is very real as teachers and students report difficulty concentrating, eye strain, headaches and irritability.
Not to mention that teachers have been tasked with adapting in-class learning and pedagogy principles to never before used or seen virtual classrooms.
Students can feel a lack of support with their school work while others are having a hard time focusing.
A recent study showed student achievement fell in comparison to the year prior to COVID.
Further, the at-home environment is a struggle for many families and household stress is also on the rise as parents struggle to work from home while their kids are also trying to learn from home.
The good news is that there are many resources out there to support teachers and students continue to learn through this pandemic. However, finding the right ones can be challenging.
Pro Tip: find a comprehensive resource from a well respected source.
The Johns Hopkins School of Education recently partnered with Klassroom to launch a new course dedicated to providing practical knowledge, strategies and tools to help manage the mental health stressors that teachers and students are experiencing in these difficult times.
How stress-caused burnout impacts teachers and students
Teachers are on the brink of burnout.
Over two thirds of teachers have considered leaving classroom teaching because of pandemic stress.
Teachers have one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S, with reports showing 46% of teachers feeling stressed even prior to the pandemic.
The pandemic has now amplified these feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
A study showed that teacher burnout is directly associated with student motivation and poor academic achievement.
That is why it’s so important to offer support for teachers and students so that they can better navigate these trying times.
Education departments and school administrations must recognize the urgency in adopting new ways to support this changing learning environment. Doing so will reduce stress and keep their teachers in employment.
The right solutions will keep students in an environment conducive to learning!
Solutions for reducing pandemic-related stress for teachers and students
As school cases of COVID persist, so does the stress, fear and anxiety.
Understanding these factors brings attention to the compounding effects of stress on students and teachers. It is also how we start to develop the necessary solutions.
The first step is continuing to try to educate and learn as best as possible during this pandemic.
We know that when teachers and students feel safe and protected they can teach better and learn more.
In fact, a recent survey of US teachers showed that 99% of participants stated health and safety was a top priority in the school system.
The next step is to look ahead at how we continue to adopt and foster a holistic approach to safety for everyone at school.
Creating a school system that prioritizes a “safe and healthy” environment now can reduce stress among teachers and students for the present and the future.