Teachers across the world have had to respond fast to bridging the gap which the COVID-19 pandemic brought on schooling. It’s true that every industry was affected, but education has been hit in multiple ways. Teachers, learners, and parents are all caught in one net, with teaching jobs threatened for sustainability and growth.
K-12 teachers already have a lot on their plates. First, they’ve had to deal with low salaries compared to other professionals for more than a decade. This has been an aftereffect of the Great Recession where states had to cut down on the education budget in 2008, leading to the loss of more than 120,000 positions. Federal funding which helped schools in various districts to ‘save face’ was almost gone by 2010 and teachers’ jobs were on the line.
According to an NYTimes report in 2010, districts had the option of laying off teachers, shutting down schools, increasing class sizes, and shortening school period. It took 2 years for the crisis to hit its lowest point as state revenue and property taxes were not forthcoming as usual. Twelve years later, America is still battling with the long term effect of slashing education funds, slashing teachers’ salaries, and laying off their workforce.
In the wake of this, the COVID-19 downtime is threatening to further meltdown teachers’ efforts and sources of livelihood.
Already, of the 981,000 job losses recorded in April, 468,800 were from public schools. This data already shows that K-12 education will be hit more than it was in 2008 if the government does not provide more funding for districts and their schools and if this recession lingers.
What COVID-19 Has Done to the Teaching Industry?
With the outbreak of this pandemic, governments around the world ordered schools to shut down in order to contain the spread of the virus. With most offices shut down, parents had to stay with their children at home throughout this period as teachers moved their classes online. It was a short call, but everyone rose to the occasion.
In the early days of the concert, teachers who had access to the internet began taking short courses on online learning management systems. While many people always knew that online learning was a viable option, most schools didn’t use it as an integral part of their classrooms. The most progressive teachers used the flipped classroom or blended learning concept. Still, the transition has been a shock, especially for K-12 learners.
The major problem with online learning is that it serves students from middle and upper-class homes and communities. Students from low-income communities have been left behind in a lot of ways.
First is the unavailability or insufficiency of digital gadgets that will enable learners to connect to online learning. Then they need an internet connection such as WIFI or from an internet service provider.
Paul Reville admitted in an interview with The Harvard Gazette in April that some students will be disadvantaged by the lockdown this period.
In his words, “Some students will be fine during this crisis because they’ll have high-quality learning opportunities, whether it’s formal schooling or informal homeschooling of some kind coupled with various enrichment opportunities . Conversely, other students won’t have access to anything of quality, and as a result, will be at an enormous disadvantage. Generally speaking, the most economically challenged in our society will be the most vulnerable in this crisis, and most advantaged are most likely to survive it without losing too much ground.”
Taking a cue from the impact of school closure during the summer holidays, we can expect that students will lose academic grounds this school year. Albeit, the gap will be wide and different. Usually, learners return to school with learning gains in reading that is between 63-68% and 37-50% in maths. This year, teachers will need to create differentiated learning instructions to support learners who have been left behind.
Apart from the obvious impact on students’ learning, COVID-19 has affected the economy greatly. The effect is that states and districts barely have enough money to continue paying teachers and other workers in public schools. Most school fundings come from local property taxes and the state, even though wealthy districts are more self-sufficient than their counterparts.
What Will Happen to Teaching Jobs Now?
The most accepted fate for teachers is the loss of their jobs. Already, 469,000 public school staff lost their jobs in April according to a Forbes report and Learning Policy Institute says that the economic downturn is not likely to reverse overnight. But layoffs are not the only ways that schools will lose teachers.
As most state governments mandate teachers to return to school, these teachers are saying that the schools are not ready for physical learning. Some teachers complain that the classrooms are not large enough to contain the number of students and keep the 6 feet gap between each person. Therefore, a lot of persons are calling in sick or resigning from their jobs.
Right now, some teachers have resumed in-person classes with their students and some others are having virtual classes from their classrooms. State directives, district decisions, and local input from teachers, parents, and students form the basis for whatever agreement has been reached in many school districts. Apparently, the teachers who are left in the system will have to decide whether the decisions suit them or not.
For teachers who feel unsafe going into the classrooms this fall for in-person teaching, there’s going to be more fallouts and resignations. This will create gaps in two forms: financial drop for the teachers and academic drop for the learners. Both ways, it’s a painful outcome, especially for teachers who love their jobs.
Teachers who are allowed to keep learning online until it’s safe to return learners to schools will have to devise means to reach more learners this school year. Of course, these teachers are grateful for the decisions their schools have made, but it takes more than gratitude. It’ll take a lot of work to keep every student engaged and to retain learning gains until learning can get in-person tutoring.
Some classroom teaching strategies can be taken online and used to engage learners on different levels. Teachers who are leaving the classroom can reconnect to their jobs in many ways too. I’ll talk about what teachers can do differently at this phase of their career.
Who is Affected Most: Teachers or Learners?
The threat to teaching jobs is a threat to the entire community. As a teacher, you are wondering how to cater to your family’s financial needs before the next paycheck. And you may be working second jobs to keep the home running efficiently. A cut on your paycheck or loss of your job will result in mental stress because of an uncertain future.
Students who lose their teachers will be forced to learn in larger numbers. Plus, their new teacher may not be a professional in the subject they have to handle. Of course, you’ll most likely be grieved by the situation, but you can barely help.
The issue is not just about who is affected most. It’s also about how long this problem will linger. Schools were just beginning to recover from the layoffs and salary cuts that happened between 2008 and 2010. So, the COVID-19 economic downturn is a bit of a heavy problem that will likely take another couple of years to resolve. Economies don’t just recover from recession overnight.
What is the Way Forward for Teachers?
This is definitely not the time to be unaware of technological advancements as a teacher. You can proffer solutions for learning to your school or district if you know the arsenal at your disposal for tackling learning in this COVID-19 era. Besides, you don’t have to be the teacher that is laid off if you remain relevant to the profession.
Now that you know your job is not assured by the authorities and you can’t vouch for the safety measures that your principal will put in place, what should you do? You really don’t have to quit teaching, if you find so much satisfaction in this job. Instead, you can use the information at your disposal to build again.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Familiarize Yourself With Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Virtual Classrooms
AI has been gaining ground in education steadily. Learning Management Systems and virtual classrooms have been here for more than a decade. There are many options to choose from depending on what you want to achieve and your budget. If your school already subscribes to a platform, you can begin with learning how to use it efficiently and professionally.
One LMS to easily incorporate in your class or teaching is the google classroom. Most schools already use the platform to extend in-class learnings. For example, many teachers post and monitor class assignments on google classroom. Your students are able to collaborate on the platform using Google Doc and Slide. You can share third party videos with your students as part of a lesson.
There are many other LMS you can consider. Here are some of them:
Virtual classrooms can be organized on Zoom, BigBlueButton, and Adobe Connect. There are other platforms as well, you can check the internet. These platforms allow you to organize your lessons efficiently and render them in real-time while creating interaction and collaboration between your learners.
LMS and virtual classrooms often intersect because some LMS have a virtual classroom feature embedded in them. You’d have to find the one(s) that suit you most.
Teachers who have insisted on keeping learning online until everywhere is safe are able to do so because they can use online platforms. Going forward, having knowledge of an online learning platform will likely become a criterion for getting a teaching job. Plus, you can use these platforms to boost your independent online classroom.
2. Use Virtual Classroom and LMS
Did I mention that you should master the system? Yes, mastering the system will give you a lot of options. With your education degree and knowledge of online learning platforms, you can even start your own online school. You can run it as a side to your full-time teaching employment or you can face it squarely as a business.
If you decide to run a homeschool, you can incorporate a virtual classroom and LMS to create a blended classroom. Since there are many options to choose from, you’ll definitely find one that suits your plan and budget. You can run a single program or engage the services of volunteer or paid teachers. The opportunities are endless.
Take a cue from online schools like Khan Academy. One advantage of creating an online school is that your students can come from any part of the world. Students in Africa are also searching the internet to connect to simplified lessons on subjects like math, physics, visual arts, chemistry, and English. If you create great courses and run good SEO, you’ll achieve massive results.
Recommended Reading — 10 Proven Teaching Strategies You Need to Try in the Classroom Now
3. Take Yourself Online
You can get online as a freelance teacher or join an online school team. You can also take up jobs as an instructional designer. Many people are looking to hire team members to help them design instructions for their online platform or to be a part of their online school with real-time sessions. Where you search depends on the kind of position you are looking for.
If you’re looking to take freelance positions, you can find some of them on Upwork or Flexjobs. Some positions are offered by individuals who are starting up their own platforms and others are offered by existing online school platforms. Make sure to look through the requirements of each offer before sending a proposal. Also, determine your worth and check if the price on the offer suits you.
If you want a more permanent position, Glassdoor may be an option for you. You’ll find job opportunities with different schools and they can keep you updated on new listings. Also, searching the internet alone for available vacancies is very helpful since most platforms will not post on job boards. Look up online schools and check for their “career” or “work for us” page.
Recommended Reading — 10 Best Online Assessment Software for Teachers in 2020
Online teaching is not the only way to enhance your teaching career. You can start an offline homeschool that utilizes old methods to engage learners who can’t access the internet. For example, you can record audio and visual versions of a lesson and distribute it to your students in a DVD. You can couple this distribution with printed copies of continuous assessment documents.
To make the process easier and less expensive, retrieve the discs and documents along with the students’ completed assignments weekly. You can recycle the discs for every new class and enhance the documents as best you can over time. This will help you serve students from poor communities better while you enjoy your job. Of course, you can launch your online program while handling the offline classes.
There are several options available to today’s teacher to ensure you enjoy your job while getting commensurate remuneration. As long as you can access the internet, there’s no limit to what you can achieve with determination and discipline. Even offline, you have a lot of options if you put in a bit of creativity.
- How to Begin Your Career Teaching Online?
- The Most Anticipating Trends in Education 
- A Career in Education – All the Basics You Should Know
- 14 Nontraditional Teaching Jobs Outside the Typical Classroom
- 4 Different Options to Pursue a Career in Teaching
- 10 Myths about Being a Teacher
- The Intangible Benefits of Being a Teacher