It’s been two weeks since Broward County Public Schools students started coming back to the classroom, and one week since Broward teachers started responding to our own NBC 6 confidential survey on what it’s like to teach during this pandemic.
“We just worry that, um, we’ll be seen as like, sacrificial lambs, basically,” said David Wood, who teaches 9th and 10th graders at McFatter Tech in Davie.
Wood is one of more than 1,500 teachers and support staff who took our survey. It was distributed by the Broward Teachers Union to its roughly 10,000 members.
“I do believe they are learning more when they are in the classroom. However, the nature of the beast itself is a problem because there is no such thing as physical distancing especially in elementary school,” said Francesca Elmo, who works as an educational support professional at Riverside Elementary School in Coral Springs.
Elmo was among those who left comments in the survey. Here are some of the concerns teachers told us about:
“My students are having difficulty maintaining distance and keeping masks on.”
“Need to constantly break distance protocols to help students with computer problems.”
“I wanted to do in-person teaching, however, I think we came back too soon.”
“We are working as teachers, healthcare providers, social workers, and trying our best to work as computer engineers.”
Nearly 90% of teachers in our survey did not support the decision to reopen schools, and about the same number said they did not feel safe in the classroom.
“We can catch up on academic losses, but we can’t bring people back if we lose them,” Wood said.
However, we spoke to teachers last week at two elementary schools and two high schools who had no issues with returning to campus for in-person teaching.
“I honestly don’t feel nervous simply because I feel like the district and the administration and my colleagues and the students, everyone is taking this seriously,” said Patrick Redmond, an English teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School.
“I’m not worried, I think everything is going great,” added RIchard Dunbar, who teaches PE and coaches football at Fort Lauderdale High.
So the majority opinion in our survey clearly does not speak for all teachers. It should also be said that our survey is not a scientific poll, and surveys like ours tend to skew toward the negative simply because people who have concerns and issues are the most likely to respond.
Many teachers in our survey expressed frustration with dual teaching modality, teaching the students in the classroom simultaneously with the kids who are home in front of their computers. We received comments such as these:
“Teaching remotely to students in school as well as those at home simultaneously is NOT working effectively.”
“Microsoft Teams has literally never worked properly, I’ve never had a day where the system functioned seamlessly.”
But those issues are not universal. Susan Ostheim teaches art at South Broward High School and acknowledged to us that everything is different now.
“But in terms of interacting and making sure everybody’s being given the attention that they need, it’s really flowing,” Ostheim said. “I’m OK with it so far.”
Monique Acher teaches science at South Broward High, to the kids in her classroom and to those doing E-learning.
“It’s not really very arduous to go between the two, it’s actually very natural,” Acher said.
“My colleagues that are here, I don’t hear grumbling, we’re all just being really, really, careful,” Ostheim said, talking about the need to follow safety protocols.
The majority of teachers who responded to our survey said they were concerned that COVID-prevention measures were not being followed strictly enough on campus.
“Students need to be reminded often to social distance,” one teacher said in the comments section of our survey, but student compliance can be a function of the age group.
“So they’re very respectful about keeping the mask on, being socially distant,” Acher said about her high school students.
“All the kids are cooperating in terms of wiping the desks down five minutes or so before class is over,” Ostheim added.
The survey also shows most teachers are worried about a COVID-19 outbreak at their school. It’s probably safe to say everyone at the school district, from the superintendent on down, shares that concern while hopefully doing everything possible to prevent it.