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Teacher Perspectives of Reopening Schools Amid COVID-19

31 Aug 2020 12:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

As part of our August blog series, VATESOL sent out a survey to teachers of English learners (ELs) about their perspectives on the reopening of schools in Virginia amid the pandemic. Fifteen teachers, who represented elementary, middle, and high school, responded to this survey. We compile their responses here as a way to articulate shared values and concerns among EL teachers across the state.


This fall, all teachers are faced with a variety of challenges related to many aspects of teaching in a virtual, hybrid, or modified in-person setting. When asked about their top priorities in planning for instruction this fall, teachers’ responses included:

  1. Helping students and families access technology and hotspots

  2. Creating assignments that are both accessible and meaningful

  3. Ensuring staff and student safety

  4. Having adequate resources for effective planning 


This back-to-school season is undoubtedly filled with more fear and anxiety than ever before. Teachers noted many personal and professional concerns, including:

  1. Health and safety of teachers and students

  2. Communication with families and student engagement

  3. Students’ academic progress

  4. Technology access


EL teachers have a special expertise in both the instruction of ELs and outreach to multilingual families. This expertise should be consulted as administrators and leaders make decisions for the fall. When asked what issues they feel their administration should consider this school year, EL teachers most frequently provided the following responses:

  1. Technology access

  2. Communication

  3. Resources and information available in multiple languages


Beyond question, COVID-19 has and will change teachers’ professional roles. When asked how this pandemic has already changed their role as an EL teacher, our survey participants responded:

  1. Providing more wraparound support for families such as finding community services, including food banks

  2. Facilitating more direct interaction with families

  3. Learning how to teach through online platforms


This fall, teachers will need to learn how to engage all families with critical information and updates. EL teachers noted how they are planning to communicate with EL families this fall:

  1. Phone calls

  2. Texts

  3. Technology platforms such as TalkingPoints, Canvas, Zoom

  4. Face to face


When asked if they had the option, which reopening plan would they choose for ELs, seven out of fifteen teachers answered “hybrid,” six teachers answered “fully virtual,” and two teachers answered “face to face.” Even on a small scale, these responses show that teachers across the state have mixed feelings about reopening plans, especially when considering the many unique needs of ELs and their families.


As teachers gear up for a new school year, albeit different from years past, valid concerns about keeping safe, ELs falling through the cracks and not having access to technology were admittedly expressed. However, fellow EL teachers are optimistic with these comments: 

This is an exciting time for us to try new things that normally would take years to get approved!  I hope I am up to the challenge”

“I’m grateful we have each other to collaborate with each other!”

“I have learned just how resilient my students are and that they and the communities where they live are continuing to support each other.”


We would love to hear from you. How is your division considering ELs and their families in their reopening plans? What other considerations and concerns would you add to the responses above? Comment below or on our social media platforms to continue the conversation.

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