Teachers have a unique ability to go above and beyond – from spending extra hours after school helping students understand tricky subjects to organizing extracurricular activities and offering encouraging words, teachers always rise to the occasion.

When COVID-19 and lockdown upended schools in the spring of 2020, teachers once again showed their resilience and dedication by helping their students flourish in challenging times. Educators found themselves adapting to unfamiliar digital classrooms, guiding children who may have had limited resources at home, and developing lesson plans that needed to be engaging in entirely new ways.

While almost all school districts have returned to the relative normalcy of in-person teaching, the impacts of the coronavirus continue to resonate. How has learning technology changed over the past few years, how are teachers faring today, and where might the future of education go? Here are a few insights into the ways COVID-19 has impacted our schools. 

The Evolution of Remote Education

The pandemic was a catalytic event in the adoption of remote learning, but it wasn’t a sudden leap to online school. For years, teachers and students have been using platforms like Blackboard and Canvas to upload assignments, post quizzes, and exchange messages. In addition, fully remote teaching had been building momentum in charter schools and online universities, but virtual learning hadn’t been implemented on a broad scale before lockdown.

Of course, that all changed in March 2020. Initially, many schools struggled to find ways to effectively connect teachers with their students, figuring out solutions as they went along. Many students couldn’t reliably show up for online classes from home, and school districts had to adapt their resources to minimize gaps in education.

Educators made truly herculean efforts to ensure their students had the opportunity to access their virtual classrooms. During the pandemic, 45 percent of public schools were able to distribute laptops or other devices to all their students, while another 39 percent provided them to students who didn’t have access to technology at home.

Principals also worked to ensure that all students had access to the internet during remote learning, collaborating with internet providers to provide service (45 percent), sending home hotspots (61 percent), or offering safe spaces to connect to Wi-Fi (37 percent). While some of this funding was provided at state and federal levels, often districts worked directly with companies to arrange access to technology.

Meanwhile, teachers were juggling the equally difficult feats of creating engaging virtual environments for their students while rapidly mastering new technology themselves. They balanced real-time video lessons with asynchronous assignments to be completed when schedules allowed. They made silly videos to boost their students’ spirits and learned the best apps to use for each subject.

When schools began to offer hybrid classes, educators had to adjust to a new mode of learning once again. With complicated schedules, socially distanced desks, and masked interactions, they had to simultaneously engage in-person students and their remote peers. Hybrid classrooms became mini-IT labs, equipped with microphones, cameras, and video screens to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds.

Most schools are back to in-person education these days, but the end of virtual learning isn’t in sight just yet. Between ongoing coronavirus cases and staffing shortages, many schools this year have been forced to temporarily pivot to remote schedules. In addition, there’s high demand for virtual schools from both parents and districts, so it seems that digital classrooms are here to stay.

How Teachers Are Holding Up

Despite the amazing resilience they’ve shown over the past two years, there’s no denying that teachers have been navigating an unprecedented period of pedagogical change. Between the pandemic, social unrest, and the increased politicization of school curricula, they face challenges from all sides.

While 85 percent of teachers feel increasingly comfortable returning to in-person lessons, 42 percent indicated in the EdChoice March 2022 Public Opinion Tracker that they would prefer to maintain at least one day of distance learning a week. In contrast, only about half of general employees feel comfortable going into their workplace, according to a January 2022 study by Pew Research. This just goes to show teachers’ dedication to their students.

Teachers still love education, but recent events have taken a toll on their overall job satisfaction. Over half of all educators have considered either early retirement or leaving the profession entirely within the last three months, citing feeling stressed and undervalued, as found by EdChoice. Many have already quit, leaving school districts short on staff, and requiring the remaining teachers to take on heavier workloads.

How can we show our teachers that we value their work and underscore the important impact they have on our children? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write a personal note to a teacher who has made a difference in your or your child’s life, detailing a moment that highlighted their dedication. Encourage your child to do the same.
  • Speak in support of your teachers at the next school district board meeting. Almost one-third reported a protest or major disruption at a board meeting, so make a positive change by acknowledging the hard work they’ve been putting in the past few years.
  • Listen to what the teachers in your school district need and call your local representative, advocating for flexible classrooms, better technology, higher pay, or whatever else they might prioritize most.

The Future of Virtual Learning

While most teachers and their pupils are eager to return to the physical classroom, the flexibility of hybrid or remote instruction makes it an appealing supplement to in-school teaching. There are many benefits of using educational technology (EdTech) in addition to traditional resources.

Remote learning creates more options for students to learn in the ways that work best for them. Many teachers who had not made extensive use of technology in their lessons before the pandemic found their digital tools helped make content more accessible. 

Recorded lessons or virtual classrooms allow students who cannot physically make it to school to participate and catch up on work. Whether accelerated or remedial, synchronized classes allow students to guide their education at their own pace. Weather closures might be a thing of the past if teachers can hold classes from home.

There is no “ideal” setup for a hybrid classroom; that depends on the unique needs of the teacher and their class. However, some tools we might see more frequently include high-quality cameras to capture lessons and large screens to conference with remote students. Schools might integrate collaboration and communication apps into their curriculum, allowing students to easily use chat, video messaging, document sharing, and more on any device. Districts and teachers will be able to easily make announcements and know the messages have been received.

It will take a lot more work to provide high-quality remote education on a broad scale, but the groundwork has been laid for virtual technology to become an integrated part of every classroom. While we might not have school in the metaverse just yet, students and teachers have become much more familiar with digital learning methods.

Mitel Supports Students and Educators

From cloud-based, district-wide telephony systems to collaboration solutions that integrate with educational apps, Mitel has provided schools with the tools to help teachers, students, staff and parents communicate effectively for over a decade. When the pandemic forced a sudden shift to online learning, Mitel’s communications software allowed teachers to quickly adapt to their virtual classrooms with minimal interruption to students’ curriculum.

Mitel improves the education experience with:

  • Increased productivity: Collaboration apps that work with existing mobile devices allow for quick communication whenever and wherever. 
  • Real-time communications: Integrated mass notification solutions allow administrators to easily reach students and parents with time-sensitive information, whether it’s delayed openings, school closures, project deadlines, test results, and even changes to remote and in-person schedules.
  • Enhanced voice systems: Outdated phone systems should stay in the past. Ensure that staff and students always have access to phones during outages and emergencies with unified communications technology.

A Big Thank You to Teachers

Mitel extends a sincere thank you to all the teachers who have proven their dedication to their students, time and time again. We wouldn’t be here without your important work!

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