This week, Shaw Media Illinois asked local teachers a few questions on how they're feeling about schools reopening in the fall, what has changed since schools closed in March, what they learned about e-learning and how they felt about the requirement for students to wear masks upon re-entering school.
This survey, while not scientific in nature, included respondents from 12 counties in northern Illinois.
About 70 teachers replied to the survey. Among the respondents: 40% teach in high schools, 32% in elementary, 16% in middle school, 4% preferred not to say, and the remaining 8 percent responded "other" or work in a school's administration.
A few patterns emerged from survey responses:
About 50% of teachers expressed sentiment that the transition to e-learning when schools closed in March was tough, and 40% felt their district was prepared because it had invested in the technology available to make it possible.
If there was a near-universal truth among respondents, it was this: teachers are looking forward to seeing their students in person, with 95% expressing sentiment that they were excited to see the kids they have missed teaching in person.
And 85% of respondents expressed sentiment that face masks are necessary, but almost an equal amount – 78% – followed it concerns over if kids will actually be able to wear a mask for hours, how it will be enforced, and how much learning will get done because of the mask requirement.
Specifically, we asked these questions:
1. How did you manage dealing with a quick transition to e-learning in March?
2. What did you learn about the e-learning experience this spring?
3. What concerns you most about going back to school in the fall?
4. What are you most excited about when school returns in the fall?
5. How do you feel about the requirement of face masks?
Here is a sample of what teachers said when we asked about dealing with the quick transition to e-learning in March:
Jenna Maierhofer, Seneca: "I had a lot of lessons on video already so I was able to use those and do a few more as I went. I was also able to provide students with printed material and electronic files on the Friday and Monday before we went remote."
CJ Nemec, McHenry: "High school was relatively smooth. So much of what we do is tech based anyway. My wife teaches elementary school and that was an entirely different animal."
Michaela Kopystynsky, Gurnee: "It wasn’t easy. My district doesn’t have the technology to give each student a laptop. We didn’t get to truly do remote learning."
Here is a sample of what teachers said when we asked about what they learned about the e-learning experience this spring:
Andrew Accardi, Sterling: "I learned about so many more methods/tech/ apps that exist that will not only help with e-learning, but will make classroom teaching much more effective."
Betsy Zimmerman, DeKalb: "We need better structures of support for families and to build a culture of open communication with families."
Dana Barnett, Naperville: "We did the best we could, but we need to do better. We need to be able to provide students with more support, especially those with special needs. It put a big strain on families, so the mental health of our students is a big concern. We needed equal time for SEL and academic instruction. We also need to be cognizant of the amount of screen time we are requiring. Students need to get exercise and have breaks in their learning day, just as they would in school."
Here is a sample of what teachers said when we asked what concerns they have about school opening in the fall:
Beth Parker, Yorkville: "Teaching at school to the kids who are there then coming home and teaching the kids who choose to do remote learning [if it’s a hybrid]. Add my own three kids to the mix and I’m not sure I’ll survive. Also worried about getting sick."
Chris Schieffer, Palatine: "The structures that my middle school has used for 20+ years effectively may need to be abruptly thrown out the window."
Keith Levin, Crystal Lake: "Inconsistency within schools, districts, regions could be a big problem for families and communities. Also, that some students may be remote and others will be live; that will be a challenge to manage."
Rachel Foster, Bloomingdale: "Having to manage student masks and manage keeping students socially distanced. I'm concerned that if a student gets sick parents will blame teachers for not making them follow the rules."
Here is a sample of what teachers said when we asked what they are most excited about school opening in the fall:
Benjamin Bertelsman, Woodstock: "Seeing the kids again."
Aaron Sovern, Yorkville: "Seeing students again."
Amy O'Rourke, Plainfield: "Seeing my students!"
Maya Admins, St. Charles: "If we do return, I’m excited to be in the halls of our school again."
Here is a sample of what teachers said when we asked for their thoughts on the state's face mask requirement:
Amanda (no last name provided), Sterling: "I think it’s going to be difficult and in some cases uncomfortable. But I could not live with carrying an illness to my students that could be passed on to an at-risk loved one."
Chad Baker, Serena: "Makes sense but will be really hot."
Heidi Moe, Dixon: "Children and teenagers will follow the lead of adults. Adults are handling this incredibly selfishly and that behavior is being mimicked. If you want school to be open in the fall, then all adults need to do their part in accepting the role of face masks for our current society. Otherwise 95% of your child's education will be monopolized by face mask policing. We want to do our jobs, we want to educate our students, we need society to help students [of all ages] accept this new aspect of life."
Eric Samuelson, Marengo: "If it gets us back in the classroom and engaging with others face to face, I'm all in!"
Jennifer Ring, Cherry: "No one, teachers or students, want to go back to school wearing masks but we all know that it is the best way to combat this virus. Our school’s main responsibility is to keep EVERYONE safe and healthy and we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone feels safe coming back into the building."