Surviving COVID Isolation: A Phenomenological Study Exploring High School Teachers’ Lived Experiences in a Rural Setting

Karen Marie Collier 1 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp. 19-40

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In March 2020, much of the United States shifted to virtual learning with little preparation. Many people tried to adjust to the new normal of quarantine and create a sense of regularity, especially in education. To understand teachers’ experiences during this time, a phenomenological study was used to explore the sudden transition to virtual learning for two teachers at a lower socioeconomic, rural high school in the southeastern United States. Through semi-structured interviews, the teachers recounted their personal experiences during the virtual learning transition in the Spring of 2020. They shared their experiences teaching virtually and concerns over students’ academic growth, as well as physical and mental health. The teachers provided a creative artifact representing Remote Learning as a secondary data source. As interviews and artifacts were analyzed to derive meaning from their experiences, the study discovered the essence of the teachers’ experiences during the remote transition. Teachers accepted a survival mentality as they were overwhelmed with responsibilities and arduous tasks. Disappointment and sadness surfaced in the teachers as students displayed apathy towards assignments, yet they discovered happiness in increased social interactions with their students. Teachers acted as mentors for students, guiding them through the educational transition while focusing on students’ physical and mental well-being. The study’s findings can be utilized to develop high-quality, equitable remote education models by identifying assistive and inhibitive factors.

Keywords: learning during COVID, remote learning, sociocultural theory, phenomenological study.