Polling a Couple Hundred Teachers on Twitter about Pandemic Teaching

I’m not really sure what it says about me that I enjoy designing and analyzing survey data. Other people exercise or write poetry. I tweet polls. Honestly, I’m starting to think that I might be a bit of a nerd. Going to want to keep an eye on that.

Back in July, when things weren’t necessarily better but were somewhat different, schools were still coming up with plans for the fall. Would it be live, in-person? Would some students be live while others learned online? These options were hotly debated, and I asked teachers on Twitter what they thought of the options.

Here were the responses:

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Elementary teachers seemed split between all-live and all-remote, whereas middle and high school teachers showed a distinct preference for all-remote.

What does this mean? Teachers have three things to worry about this year: safety, working conditions for teachers and conditions for students.

Elementary teachers may or may not have been aware of research suggesting that younger children get the virus less often — probably their innate immune systems do a better job fighting it off. As an elementary teacher myself, I can attest that learning conditions are far, far worse for younger children who are logged into online learning. They seem confused by and frustrated with technology. So student conditions are worse. And as I hear from friends and see in my child’s own school, being a non-specialist classroom teacher is really really really hard this year for K-5. Teachers are often getting fewer breaks and responsible for making sure kids go to the bathroom in the right way and wash their hands and wear their masks and so on and so on — working conditions are worse.

This all could explain why elementary teachers showed a preference for all-live versus hybrid or all-remote.

In middle and high school, teachers seemed fairly enthusiastic about remote learning. That might have been primarily about safety concerns. Still, I’d heard from many people that, from the perspective of learning conditions, all-remote would be better for learning than hybrid. And it would be better for working conditions as well — wouldn’t you like to work from home? Wouldn’t you prefer to just focus on making remote learning work well, rather than dealing with yet another confusing new teaching mode?

That could explain why middle and high school teachers showed a preference for all-remote teaching.

A few months into this thing, how is it going? Here are a pair of polls to think about.

Poll #1 (those are percentages):

Poll #2 (also percentages):

So, what do we make of this?

Fully remote teaching, at the end of the day, are worse working conditions for teachers. It’s isolating, and you don’t get to see your students or colleagues. From the perspective of optimizing student learning it may very well be true that purely remote learning is more effective. But it’s less meaningful for teachers and for most kids too in every other sense.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that teachers have changed their minds from that first survey. Maybe safety considerations override other concerns, and teachers still prefer to work fully remotely even if it’s not working any better.

Or maybe teachers were overly optimistic about what they could accomplish through remote learning this autumn. Maybe the relationships have really suffered. Conversely, maybe the relationships and social life inside a school has been better than teachers expected in their hybrid situations.

From conversations online and in person, I know that there are a lot of ways for schools to mess this up. Lots of teachers are having a hard time at work this year. I certainly spend a lot of time at my wits end.

Still, it’s a real privilege to get to go back to school and do the thing that I know how to do. My school has been hybrid and, so far, it’s been good.

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