WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Eighteen months into the global pandemic, a majority of U.S. K-12 teachers (77%) report they are vaccinated and back in the classroom. But the challenges loom large: students' mental health is the top concern for teachers as the new school year begins, according to a survey of educators conducted by SMART Technologies – the global education technology company with a 30-year track record of pioneering learning solutions that encourage student collaboration and engagement.
The findings reflect research published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that the incidence of depression and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents has doubled during COVID-19, compared with pre-pandemic estimates. Only half of survey respondents felt their school has the resources to meet the social-emotional and well-being needs of students returning to the classroom.
"I think it [the pandemic] has shown how detrimental not having those connections can be," said one eighth-grade teacher in Oregon, responding in open comments in the survey. "You don't realize how crucial the connection is until you don't have it anymore."
While 38 percent of teachers said social isolation arising from remote learning was their top concern for students' well-being amidst the pandemic, nearly half of respondents (46%) said the pandemic improved their connections with families. With an eye forward as teachers settle into the new school year, 32% of teachers said they are placing a greater emphasis on building stronger connections between learning at home and the classroom, as a result of the pandemic.
"While the COVID-19 pandemic and other global issues continue to be of concern, perhaps a bright spot is a deeper appreciation for the critical role meaningful connections play in learning. As we've seen in the survey and through our work with millions of teachers across the globe, teachers are returning to the classroom with a greater emphasis on building strong relationships with students and engaging families in the learning experience," said Giancarlo Brotto, global education advisor at SMART. "And, with the increased familiarity and exposure to various technologies, there's an opportunity to provide teachers with specific resources and tools that will help them strengthen relationships, address learning loss, and attend to the mental health and wellbeing of their students"
"The pandemic has taught me that even through a screen, you can connect with your students and have them connect with each other as well," said one third-grade teacher from New Jersey. "It just takes a bit more effort."
The SMART survey, administered this summer, included 1,033 respondents from public, private and charter schools of all sizes — in cities, towns, suburbs and rural communities. Additional key findings include:
- One in four teachers (26%) said that engaging parents to promote literacy and math at home was the most effective way to address learning losses. The same number (26%) believe targeted tutoring programs are the best method to address learning loss. Half (51%) of teachers believe that the majority of their students lost academic skills and knowledge during the pandemic.
- More than three out of five (61%) teachers said that remote instruction was somewhat or very effective in meeting the social-emotional needs of students. First- (68%) and second-grade (72%) teachers were more likely to indicate that was the case, as were teachers at suburban schools (65%).
- Forty percent of teachers said they were now using digital apps and technology in their classroom as a result of the pandemic.
- While most teachers (77%) reported having the professional learning and training needed to integrate technology in their teaching effectively, nearly 80% said they want to have a say or more of a say in the technologies and apps their schools and districts buy.
"At SMART, we're taking our supporting role seriously. If we can be the connector between teachers and peers across the globe to surface new insights, instigate new engaging lessons and activities teachers can use to support students' mental health, and also support administrators by providing them tools to assess their technology adoptions, then we have done our job," continued Brotto.
As part of SMART's suite of tools and products designed to help teachers and school leaders navigate the pandemic, SMART recently collaborated with GLUU, a UK mental health education organization, to create a series of free, mental wellbeing activities that teachers can integrate into their lessons. Using the SMART Lumio platform, teachers can create interactive lessons that foster critical thinking and promote strong mental health. In addition, SMART's Funterra for grades K-6 is an online destination filled with engaging and fun games, videos, and activities designed to inspire curious minds and develop skills for life-long learning, including creativity, resourcefulness, perseverance, grit, and empathy.
"American teachers are not alone in their concern for the well-being of their students. Across the world, educators are recognizing that mental health as well as social and emotional learning must go hand in hand with academic learning as students return to the classroom," said Christine Major, CEO at GLUU. "Informed by findings like these, we have chosen to collaborate with SMART, one of the most trusted education brands globally, to get resources in the hands of teachers that can enable them to meet these concerns."
About SMART Technologies Inc.
SMART is a world leader in education technology, providing interconnected solutions to help every person discover and develop the greatness within them. The first SMART Board launched in 1991, and has continued to innovate through SMART Notebook®, the world's most popular collaborative learning software, and through Lumio, the award-winning cloud-based learning software. With a full range of products used by millions of educators and students around the world, SMART creates connections that matter. To learn more, visit smarttech.com.
SOURCE SMART Technologies