Manitoba·Schools Under Stress

Hundreds of Manitoba teachers fear pandemic hurting students in school and beyond

The majority of Manitoba teachers fear their students are falling behind academically and will experience psychological impacts from the pandemic, according to a questionnaire filled out by Manitoba teachers and education workers.

'This has become a pandemic within a pandemic,' teacher says in response to CBC questionnaire

Nathalie Roble, a Grade 4 student at R.F. Morrison in Winnipeg, says going to school during COVID-19 has changed how she feels. A survey of more than 1,000 education workers in Manitoba shows that more than 90 per cent are worried some students will experience lasting psychological impacts from the pandemic. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

This story is part of a CBC News series examining the stresses the pandemic has placed on educators and the school system. For the series, CBC News sent a questionnaire to thousands of education professionals to find out how they and their students are doing in this extraordinary school year. Nearly 9,500 educators responded. Read more stories in this series here.


Manitoba teachers fear their students are falling behind academically and will experience psychological impacts from the pandemic, according to a questionnaire filled out by 1,027 Manitoba teachers and education workers.

CBC News sent an invitation to fill out a questionnaire — voluntarily and anonymously — to educators across Canada. In Manitoba, 833 classroom teachers, 125 teaching support staff and 63 administrators, including principals and vice-principals, responded between April 26-28.

More than two-thirds of teachers surveyed think some students will not catch up academically. 

"This has become a pandemic within a pandemic!" one teacher wrote in the questionnaire responses.

"The amount students are falling behind is ridiculous," they continued. "For a lot of students, the habits they are developing now will be very hard to undo. I am worried in a couple years, we will see a higher number of high school dropouts because of these habits."

Academic success hampered by constant 'restarts'

Students' academic success has been challenged by the constant need to "restart" with every change thrown their way, according to Melissa Harder, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at R.F. Morrison in Winnipeg.

"We see them feeling a little more insecure about themselves, which then impacts their ability to take those leaps in learning," she said.

Having to switch to remote learning at a moment's notice hasn't helped, she said.

"When you're in a screen grid of 18 kids, it's hard to know what each kid is feeling at that moment," Harder said.

Melissa Harder teachers her Grade 4 and 5 students at R.F. Morrison in Winnipeg. Harder says it's been a challenge for her classroom to take leaps in their learning, because of so much uncertainty in the pandemic. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Grade 12 Garden City Collegiate student Ricci Badayos says the constant feeling of uncertainty has made it hard at times to focus on academics.

"I was treating school more like an option rather than something I need to do. I was doing things to get things done, not because I want to learn. And I feel that it has impacted my learning because I sadly did not retain any information I learned last year," Badayos said.

Missed classes, absenteeism

Nearly 60 per cent of Manitoban teachers who responded to CBC's questionnaire say some students have stopped attending class altogether.

Two-thirds of administrators who responded, including principals and vice-principals, said there are more students absent than before.

Those absences go up when students are switched to remote learning, especially if they don't have supports at home.

"The academic gap that will be evident when we return to in-class standard learning is inevitable, and we will certainly see a more distinguishing gap between those that are marginalized," one teacher who responded to the questionnaire wrote.

Pandemic within a pandemic: Manitoba teachers say students are falling behind

4 months ago
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Manitoba teachers fear their students are falling behind academically and will experience psychological impacts from the pandemic, according to a questionnaire filled out by 1,027 Manitoba teachers and education workers. 2:33

"Waking up is the hardest part of it all," said Grade 12 student Rasleen Ded. "You're just sitting in your bed and like, do you really want to go to class and just click the button? Half the time I feel like I fell asleep."

Grade 4 student Nathalie Roble said she nearly cried when she found out classes in Winnipeg would go back to remote learning. She's worried how she'll keep up.

"I have trouble learning online. Sometimes I don't get some of the instructions," Roble said.

"I don't want to log on sometimes. My brother, my sister, my dog, they're bothering me."

92% expect psychological impacts

A huge majority of Manitoba teachers who responded to the questionnaire — 92 per cent of them — say they believe the challenges of this year will have a psychological impact on some students. 

"I worry that the lasting effects of the anxiety and worry this is imposing on our children will have a much longer and larger impact than COVID itself," one teacher respondent wrote.

Karina Hill, a Grade 12 math teacher at Garden City, said she's seen a marked change in her students.

Grade 12 students attend a university-level math class at Garden City Collegiate the day before Winnipeg schools returned to remote learning. Rasleen Ded, front, says it's been easier to go to school in person. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"You see a lot of sadness and defeat over the year. They've missed out on a ton of opportunities," Hill said.

"I think there's going to be a lot of work to do in the mental health field to help us come out on the other side of this," she  said. 

"I hope that as teachers and in the province, we make that a priority."

Methodology:

CBC sent the questionnaire to 52,351 email addresses of school workers in eight different provinces, across nearly 200 school districts. Email addresses were scraped from school websites that publicly listed them. The questionnaire was sent using SurveyMonkey.

CBC chose provinces and school districts based on interest by regional CBC bureaus and availability of email addresses. As such, this questionnaire is not a representative survey of educators in Canada. None of the questions were mandatory, and not all respondents answered all of the questions.

Data analysis: Roberto Rocha and Dexter McMillan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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