The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball in teachers' plans earlier in 2020. Due to the sudden transition to remote learning and the uncertainty surrounding the school year that followed, educators are now facing challenges at an unprecedented scale.
Given the situation, you might expect that teacher job satisfaction is at an all-time low. But data from HMH's 6th Annual Educator Confidence Report, published in collaboration with YouGov, tells a different story. The report surveyed more than 1,400 educators—including both teachers and K-12 administrators—in June 2020, a few months after the start of the pandemic. The respondents worked at schools across poverty levels and had varying levels of experience in the classroom.
Teacher Satisfaction and Confidence in the Profession
One of the best ways to measure overall teacher satisfaction would be to understand the extent to which teachers want to leave the profession. This year, the proportion of educators who said they have no interest in leaving the field increased among those with all levels of experience in the classroom, as you can see in the graphic below. The proportion of teachers who said they will definitely be out of the field in the next five years also decreased across the board. Yes, teachers are facing all sorts of challenges—but many still want to continue shaping students' lives.
It's no surprise that teachers initially felt unprepared, both professionally and personally, for the switch to remote learning in the spring. This change involved the greater use of digital tools and virtual modes of communication, such as videoconferencing, as children were forced to learn away from school. While these means of interaction with students was an adjustment, educators reported learning a lot from this experience and felt optimistic about their students' abilities to use these new technologies by the time the next school year began in the fall.
The graphic below illustrates that in June 2020, a vast majority of teachers felt they would be prepared for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. In fact, their overall level of optimism increased to 48 points from the previous year's 43. According to the survey, this is likely due, at least in part, to teachers' experimentation with new educational technologies they previously hadn't felt as comfortable using, as well as their commitment to lifelong learning.
Areas of Concern and Optimism
While teacher confidence in the profession increased from last year, teachers still have plenty of concerns, especially given the distance learning and hybrid formats implemented in many of their districts. Most educators said they expected the teaching and learning landscape to look significantly different this school year—and they were right.
The ECR explains that in June, teachers' concerns primarily included:
- Ensuring that a plan for learning moving forward was in place in the event schools couldn't reopen and/or the severity of COVID-19 necessitated school closings.
- Ensuring students' needs were met during the transition to remote learning.
- Meeting the social and emotional needs of students (which a majority of teachers said was incorporated into distance learning to only a small extent or not at all).
Additionally, compared with 2019, more educators this year found they were concerned with:
- Differentiating lessons for special education and students who require intervention (49%, up 20 points)
- Inequity (48%, up 9 points)
- A lack of technology devices (44%, up 17 points)
- Supporting the needs of students of color (44%, new item added to the list)
- Differentiating instruction for English language learners (32%, up 9 points)
Despite these concerns, many teachers were able to identify positive outcomes for educators that arose out of the pandemic. The graphic below shows that many educators used this opportunity to discover new teaching formats and methods and to connect with students and their families on a new level. A majority (62%) also noted that there seemed to be a newfound respect for the role of teachers in kids' lives.
So, are teachers satisfied with their jobs? Even with everything that's been thrown at them this year, our data says overall, yes, they are—but they have many concerns in these unprecedented times. Many worry about the social and emotional needs of students and faced challenges in the transition to remote learning earlier this school year.
Here at HMH, we view teachers as heroes in many ways, and COVID-19 proved this to be correct. Even from afar, educators have continued impacting children's lives, and the newfound respect that many people have for the profession may be one of many reasons why teacher satisfaction and confidence continues to rise.
Looking for more data on teacher areas of optimism and concern during COVID-19? Download the 6th Annual Educator Confidence Report for additional insights.