Pierre – Educators are seeing increased workloads as a result of the many adjustments being made to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic; this is happening at the same time many don’t feel they or their input is being valued by their local school district. That is according to a recent survey conducted by the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) of 1178 South Dakota educators. Seventy-six percent of the respondents indicated they have seen an increased workload since the beginning of the school year. When it comes to who is listening to their concerns, a majority (57.72 percent) say it is not their local school district. SDEA says between the increased workload and their concerns not being heard, many educators are not feeling valued or respected and this could exacerbate South Dakota’s teacher shortage.
SDEA President Loren Paul says schools must get creative and work collaboratively with educators as we all try to manage this current crisis. “SDEA acknowledges that administrators are also seeing increased workloads especially when it comes to contact tracing, but the data shows a real morale problem that must be addressed before we start losing our educators,” said Paul. “In the short term we are urging administrators to hear the concerns of educators and work together to develop creative ways to address workloads. It all comes down to finding better ways to support our teachers as they try to find creative ways to reach students, whether they are in their classrooms or learning online. We have to work together to lighten the burden for everyone.”
The survey also shows that educators don’t feel prepared to be successful in a constantly changing environment. Sixty-two percent of educators who responded to the survey didn’t feel they were provided with the training necessary to be successful at teaching as they try to navigate both in-person and online lessons leading many of the respondents to ask for help in managing workloads.
“The two things our educators made perfectly clear in our survey is they want help with workload, and they want to be heard,” said Paul. “Teachers love their jobs and they want to do the best job possible so they can help their students. We need to remember that the support they are asking for is really help for their students. The more we help teachers; the more we help our students.”
Paul says educating during a pandemic will also have long-term costs that won’t be fixed overnight. “Schools will need more funding to help meet the social and emotional needs of students and staff whose lives continue to be upended by an education system that changes daily.” He also warns the long-term cost of educating during a pandemic is a loss of educators.
“South Dakota already struggles to attract and retain teachers, and we fear the effects of educating during the pandemic will only exacerbate this problem. We must be proactive and work together as a community to make sure our educators know they are valued. South Dakota must also renew its commitment to our teachers and students by providing the necessary funding levels to ensure districts can offer our educators professional pay,” said Paul. “Unfortunately, the state’s efforts to raise teacher pay has stalled, and now would be a good time to rev up those efforts if we want to reward our educators for their hard work.”