As many students return to in-person instruction after staying at home for much of the 2020-21 academic year, parents and teachers alike are hoping school itself will look different, with more opportunity for smaller classes and personalized attention for students.
What’s more, the majority of both parents and teachers are eager for kids to go back to in-person schooling full-time this fall, according to a survey released this week by a civil rights education and a learning nonprofit organization.
Both groups also understand it’s not going to be easy. Ninety percent of teachers and 61 percent of parents surveyed last month are expecting big challenges as children head back to in-person classrooms. Academic development was a top concern, with 73 percent of respondents listing it as number one in a survey conducted last month by Understood, a non-profit that works on behalf of children with learning and thinking differences, and UnidosUS, an organization that works on behalf of Latinos.
But parents and teachers are nearly as worried about other issues. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were most concerned with anxiety students may be feeling, followed by social concerns, at 63 percent, and emotional ones, at 62 percent.
Educators and parents also say that pandemic teaching and learning highlighted the need for some changes to the traditional classroom set-up and schedule. For instance, more than half of educators—61 percent—see a need for more hands-on activities. Another 57 percent would like smaller class sizes. Nearly as many—55 percent—would like to see learning environments become more flexible. And over 50 percent want more one-on-one interaction with their students, something that could be accomplished through Zoom office hours or breakout rooms during the pandemic.
Amanda Morin, the director of thought leadership and expertise at Understood and a former early childhood educator, said that she was surprised that there was so much agreement between parents and educators when it comes to what they hope will happen next.
“It was fascinating for me when I saw these findings to realize that parents and educators are pretty close together on how they want the classroom to look,” she said. Both groups, in particular educators, are especially worried about the longer-term academic and social challenges once kids return to the classroom.
Parents are also looking for educator support as they prepare to send their children back to school. Two-thirds of parents said they would like schools to provide additional learning devices, such as laptops and/or tablets to households with more than one school-aged child. And just over half—54 percent—want guidance on how to access social services.
The survey was conducted online at the end of July by Understood and UnidosUS among educators and parents of kids aged 5 through 18. A total of 1,005 parents and 495 educators participated.