Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been subjected to various changes that have not only affected their careers, but their well-being. Nearly one year ago, their once routine schedules were drastically altered. Since then, teachers have had to teach from home, adapt to an entirely new online platform and risk their health to return back to school.
At first, teachers were given the choice as to whether or not they wanted to attend school in person based on their own comfort levels. Then, Broward County Public Schools decided that any teachers without preexisting health conditions were required to return to campus, effective immediately.
Recently, the district announced that all teachers, regardless of preexisting health conditions, were to return to school or take a leave of absence without pay.
Going through these drastic changes did not come easy to teachers. They felt that the district ultimately failed to consider their physical and emotional health when making decisions that had tremendous effects on both their personal and professional lives.
“The district is changing things daily,” English teacher Debra Jacobson said. “They are not considering teachers first. Parents, students, administrators and teachers don’t even make the list.”
Although MSD has taken necessary precautions both in and outside of the classroom, there is only so much they can do when trying to combat an extremely contagious virus. Despite these precautions, going to school does put teachers at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
“The district has stated that we can only social distance so much and that it may not be possible, at times, to keep six feet,” English teacher Andrea Kowalski-Rospierski said.
Teaching classes while worrying about contracting the virus has put teachers under large amounts of stress. Teachers are finding it much more difficult to focus on educating students while knowingly putting themselves, and possibly their families, in danger. Teachers want to interact and teach their students to the best of their ability, yet they are forced to worry about their own health at all times.
“I had been socially distant and quarantined with my family since March 13,” English teacher Dara Hass said. “We only came out of quarantine due to having to return to work. It forced us to [send] our children back into a classroom as there was no one at home to watch them to continue virtual learning for them. I worry [about] the health and safety of myself, my family, and my students.”
Despite these concerns, COVID-19 is not the only factor causing teachers to struggle emotionally. Since the general public regularly turns to social media to discourage teachers, these educators have had a hard time. Receiving online negativity from students and parents undermine these educators’ time, energy and efforts.
“I take pride in my career choice and I try my best at all times. To hear the community lash out really hurts,” Hass said. “I feel very stressed because of being overwhelmed, unsupported, and worried about catching COVID-19.”
The lack of students on campus has also lessened the energy and excitement within classrooms, which in turn saddens teachers. Face-to-face lessons, interactions and discussions with students are a large part of why teachers choose their professions to begin with. These interactions motivate teachers and help them connect with their students, building strong connections.
“Having less or no students in my classes greatly affects my mood because part of the reason I love teaching is interacting with and engaging students in person,” AP World History teacher Devin Schaller said.
Given the amount of stress and pressure that teachers are currently under, many are trying their best to provide students with the best resources. However, teachers can only hope that their classrooms will go back to normal by next school year.