Hybrid-learning burnout: Teachers head into summer with ‘sense of failure’

Teacher and mental health advocate Henry Seton joins Yahoo News reporter Garin Flowers to discuss the challenges facing schools as some teachers head into the summer unsure if they’ll return to work. According to Seton, after more than a year juggling sporadic school closures, remote learning and hybrid learning, as well as managing the COVID-19 pandemic with their own families, many educators feel they've let down their students.

Video Transcript

GARIN FLOWERS: You actually have been talking about mental health with teachers for awhile, way before the pandemic. So talk to me about your thoughts then and your thoughts now during this pandemic.

HENRY SETON: Yeah, absolutely. I, in my experience having taught on the East Coast and also in the Midwest, people who look like me, straight white men for example, I feel like we are often the least vulnerable about our mental health as teachers. And we just still have so far to go in terms of making the conversation more normal. COVID has definitely increased the challenges that teachers have been experiencing in terms of their mental health.

You know, I would say increased secondary trauma for teachers just increasingly working with students who are living through trauma brought on by COVID, whether specifically sickness or death or economic casualties in their family. Secondly, we just have teachers trying to straddle the worlds of hybrid education more than ever. I think we have just unpredictable changes in the education landscape that teachers have been often enduring from week-to-week. Hopefully, those are slowing down.

You know, and lastly, I'd just throw out the experience of teachers who are also parents. I wish we could just put the camera on baby [? Sully ?] all the time.

GARIN FLOWERS: There's a lot of teachers who are doing remote learning from the classroom, where they have students on the camera, on the computer, and students in the classroom. What are-- what are they dealing with? What are they facing?

HENRY SETON: Teachers who are stuck in these hybrid situations feel like they're doing justice neither to the students who are in the school room, physically present, nor to the students who are at home via some sort of remote virtual instruction. And the juggling the two of those is no joke. One major education leader, Doug Lamothe, who's at Uncommon Schools, has likened a lot of this year to teaching through a keyhole, especially the remote teaching elements.

And I think that captures, in many ways, the lack of efficacy, the lack of potency that teachers have been feeling this year in order to be present for their students. Teachers, I think, are walking into this summer often with greater senses of failure, greater senses of just not achieving on the level with their students that they're used to. And I think for a lot of teachers, making peace with that is a difficult process.