With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to be an issue nationwide, conversations concerning the virus have shifted to school reopenings. And while there have been countless comments from politicians and public officials, it seems like teachers’ voices aren’t being heard nearly enough.

Earlier this month, we conducted a survey asking teachers across the United States to anonymously share their thoughts about the upcoming school year.

Here’s what we learned.

School Reopening Plans

One of the biggest issues facing schools right now is determining how or when classes will commence. To find out, we asked teachers about their school’s current plan for reopening.

According to our survey, approximately 33.4% of respondents do not have clear reopening plans at present. 30.3% said there will be a hybrid plan in place to limit in-person attendance. 25% of respondents are expecting to hold all classes in person, while 11.3% are expecting to hold all classes remotely.

Measuring Comfort Levels

Responses regarding teachers’ comfort levels about their school’s reopening plan were mixed. Overall, 29.7% of teachers were very concerned, 34.6% were somewhat concerned, 24.9% were somewhat comfortable, and 10.9% were very comfortable.

When broken down by each type of reopening plan, the data shows larger differences among teachers’ comfort levels.

For reopening plans that aren’t clear yet, 38.4% of teachers were very concerned, 44.2% were somewhat concerned, 12.8% were somewhat comfortable, and 4.7% were very comfortable.

For hybrid plans designed to limit in-person attendance, 28.8% of teachers were very concerned, 34% were somewhat concerned, 30.1% were somewhat comfortable, and 7.1% were very comfortable.

For plans to hold all classes in person, 29.5% of teachers were very concerned, 30.2% were somewhat concerned, 23.3% were somewhat comfortable, and 17.1% were very comfortable.

Out of all the reopening plans, teachers seem to be more comfortable with all-remote schooling. 6.9% of teachers were very concerned, 17.2% were somewhat concerned, 50% were somewhat comfortable, and 25.9% were very comfortable.

Classroom Concerns

Next, we asked teachers about their primary concerns in the classroom as schools begin to reopen. The majority of teachers, around 67.2%, were primarily concerned with health and safety in the new school year, followed by remote learning (13.8%), student access to materials (10.1%), and technology in the classroom (2.3%). The remaining responses included issues such as:

  • Changes or interruptions in the school year due to the pandemic
  • Student and teacher mental health
  • Faculty and staff time-off and sick leave policy changes
  • Changes to state standardized testing because of the pandemic

Current Events

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be a year for the history books. Naturally, current events will make their way into classroom discussions in the upcoming school year.

Most teachers, 333 respondents, said they plan on addressing the Black Lives Matter movement at some point during the school year. Following closely behind were the COVID-19 pandemic (329 responses), immigration and the migrant experience (313 responses), and the 2020 election season (253 responses).

Other common topics that teachers plan on addressing this year included human rights issues, class inequality, free speech, economics, inequities within the criminal justice system, LGBTQ+ issues, personal identity, representation in media, and environmentalism.

New School Year Opportunities

Despite the situation, teachers are still eager to experience the many positive moments that come with starting a new school year.

Overwhelmingly, most teachers responded that they’re excited to see their students again, no matter the circumstances. Here are some other things that teachers are looking forward to:

Building relationships again with students—checking in and making sure their mental pulse is handling learning and life well.
I am looking forward to engaging students in more independent reading so that they take ownership of their learning.
I have new colleagues with whom I am excited to work and get to know. I love our first unit on identity and how it connects to who we are as readers and writers as well. My team worked hard to provide materials for students in the spring while school was closed, so I anticipate we will “make it work” with whatever decisions are made.
As always, I'm looking forward to helping students sharpen their critical thinking skills.
Meeting my new students and learning with and from them. Being the best teacher I can be with the obstacles ahead.
I’m looking forward to the arrival of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
Discussing literature; helping students reach college.
I am looking forward to student relationships and furthering their skills in reading and writing, using classic and contemporary materials.
Learning about technology resources that I can use even after I'm teaching face to face.
I am most looking forward to helping my students earn qualifying AP scores.
It seems a long time since we've been in the class reading, discussing, and writing about our interpretations, reflections, and questions. I look forward to a year of great discussions and research.

Messages for Students

Finally, to close the survey, we asked teachers to share a message with incoming students. Here are some of our favorite responses. We hope they inspire you as they did us!

I see you. I am with you. I look forward to learning from you!
The workload may be harder this coming year, but with perseverance and determination, you will have more skills for the real world, as life comes with unexpected twists.
I am glad you’re here, no matter where “here” may be!
Listen and follow all instructions in relation to COVID safety because this is not a joke.
This is a different time with so many new possibilities. We have been through many amazing changes. We now have a new opportunity to think and act differently and hopefully come from a place that is more respectful of each other and be more curious to learn new things and ideas.
Read! No matter what school looks like this year, reading will keep your mind growing.
You are more than you think. You are not your environment or situation. No matter what this year throws at us, I will be there, and you will learn. You are in control because you get to decide how you respond to your world.
Your mental health is so important. Make sure you’re still making time to do things you love!
Please know that we are all learning new things together, and we can get through this together. I need your youthful positivity and respectful cooperation to make this year a success. Your teachers care about you and will always do our best to not only teach you necessary skills, but to make sure that you have the support that you need this year.
We can be a community, even remotely.
Be patient, be cautious, and take care of yourself so that others can be safe and healthy, too.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed and scared, but we need to remember to take things one day at a time, and always look for the good in people.
Language matters! Read it! Write it! Speak it!
Stories matter! Listen to them! Tell them!
Learning matters! Stay curious and open-minded!
This year is definitely going to be much different from any other year; however, we can still make this a year full of rich learning and growth in every sense—social, emotional, mental, academic, and physical. Stay connected, reach out, and know we're all there for one another.

Thank you to all who participated in this survey! We hope this upcoming school year, despite the challenges, will be filled with kindness, faith, patience, and understanding. All of us at Prestwick House wish you and your loved ones good health and happiness.

If you ever need help with your English language arts curriculum, please reach out to us at info@prestwickhouse.com. We’re always happy to lend a hand—after we wash them, of course!