Great Expectations: The Rhetoric, Responsibilities, and Realities of Elementary Teacher Resilience in the Era of COVID-19


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, educational leaders and policymakers have emphasized the need for teachers to demonstrate resilience. As the weight of the pandemic has fallen heavily on teachers tasked with being educational, social-emotional, and even nutritional first responders in the face of ongoing crisis and uncertainty, it is unsurprising that calls for teacher resiliency have become commonplace. How do teachers who have shouldered a disproportionate load in the pandemic view exhortations for their resilience? Since March 2020, we have been interviewing elementary school teachers in a diverse, midwestern, suburban school district in the United States about their experiences navigating the many phases of pandemic teaching. Teachers have described how the discourse of resilience has placed the onus of responsibility on them to do it all: continue teaching in constantly changing modalities using new and varied technology, provide ongoing psychosocial and emotional support for students and families facing a range of crises, and support students’ diverse academic needs and their demonstrate growth using standardized tests, all the while caring for their own families and themselves. Our findings illustrate that while parents, educational leaders and policymakers have great expectations for teachers, they have often failed to provide the systems and structures of support and training needed to facilitate teachers’ burgeoning workload. Yet in the face of critical policy and structural gaps and ongoing uncertainty, teachers have nevertheless demonstrated continued resilience and have found innovative ways to educate and care for students, families, colleagues and themselves.

Author Information
Elisheva Cohen, Indiana University, United States
Laura Wangsness Willemsen, Concordia University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICE2022
Stream: Teaching Experiences

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon