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What Students and Teachers are Facing This Back-to-School

Teacher laying in grass with a set of books.

Over the past few months, our team has been checking in with teachers, staying up-to-date with what school looks like this year across the country. With three-quarters of teachers telling us they’ll be facing either online-only learning or a blend of in-school instruction and online learning, it’s more important than ever to help teachers address a new set of needs as students return to learning.

Below you’ll find the inside scoop on how teachers are feeling and preparing for the school year ahead.

1. 86% of teachers reported feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and uncertain about the year ahead.

In our largest survey to teachers this year, we asked educators how they’re feeling about the upcoming school year and heard a range of reactions in response. Still, 62% of teachers described feeling hopeful about the year ahead.

2. Students returning to the classroom need individual sets of school supplies and storage containers.

With many districts advising against communal supply use, 72% of teachers surveyed noted that each of their students will need their own supplies, including both classroom basics and sanitation items.

3. Remote learning means teachers (and students) need virtual academic resources.

Among teachers who will be conducting distance learning at the start of this school year, 79% said their greatest need is instructional technology to teach their lessons, followed by individual technology for their students (53%). These requests can look like online curriculum, digital books, tablets and document cameras, and a range of other technology to support remote learning.

4. Safety is a first priority.

79% of teachers conducting in-person instruction need personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies. In addition to personal protective equipment, teachers are also requesting floor cushions, distance spot markets, yoga mats, desk dividers and other equipment that might help maintain social distance in classrooms.

5. The digital divide may be widening.

Online learning is a challenge for everyone; 52% of our teachers said that fewer than half of their students participated regularly in online learning last spring. Teachers in low-income communities saw even lower rates of student engagement than teachers from wealthier communities.

6. Community building is still top of mind.

Whether teaching in-person or remotely, teachers want to foster safe and caring environments, ensuring that they’re still building community amongst their students. When entering a school year with so much uncertainty, teachers—particularly those in remote or hybrid settings—are focused on building connections and relationships between their students (31%) and supporting the social/emotional needs of students (23%).

Regardless of the circumstances they’re facing, teachers are going above and beyond to think about their students' needs and how to support their continued learning this year.

Perhaps no one says it better than this dedicated teacher: "Even in this most trying time, I am fully committed to teaching and ensuring that my students are building community, relationships and the skills they need. It is my goal to continue to help develop joy, inquiry and imagination in my kindergarteners through this new way of learning."

DonorsChoose is the nonprofit funding site for public school teachers in all 50 states and Washington, DC.

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