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Almost Every Teacher at This School is Leaving. Is This a Sign of Things to Come?

“Today my mom told me 26 teachers are quitting from her school after this year,” wrote Angela AKA @wokeSTEMteacher, from Chicago, Illinois, on Twitter. This included all of the kindergarten teachers, all of the fourth-grade teachers, all of the fifth-grade teachers, and all teachers for first grade, second grade, and third except for one each. Unfortunately, this mass exodus of teachers is becoming increasingly common. And many teachers who haven’t left yet are considering it.

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“More than half of teachers plan to leave”

In January of this year, the National Education Association (NEA) polled over 3,000 teachers and nearly all of them stated burnout is a serious issue. It’s no wonder, with 86 percent watching fellow educators quit or retire early after the pandemic began. As a result, 80 percent had increased work obligations because of these open teaching roles. Plus, 55 percent plan to leave or retire from their teaching career earlier than they expected. Furthermore, 62 percent of Black teachers and 59 percent of Hispanic teachers are planning to leave earlier than originally planned.

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Meanwhile, the previous poll from August 2021 showed that only 37 percent of teachers wanted to leave. Most of them opted for simple fixes, like raising the depressingly low pay, hiring more teachers and support staff, and creating more student mental health support. [1]

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“Last summer, I started traveling across the country,” said Becky Pringle, president of the NEA, which has almost 3 million members. “Without exception, every stop I made, from Kentucky to Oakland, I heard those similar stories of educators who were exhausted, overwhelmed, feeling unloved, disrespected.” [2]

Read: Should Schools Fine the Parent of a Bully?

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What is the reason for this mass exit? 

In the case of @WokeSTEMteacher, the 26 teachers are leaving because the new principal is “on a power trip” and doesn’t support them. “The principal implemented a rule where students had to stand up with their hands behind their heads after eating lunch (called assuming the position) to make sure they’d stopped eating when lunch was over,” said @WokeSTEMTeacher. Unfortunately, many departing teachers relate to dealing with a problematic and out-of-touch administration. [3]

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Then there’s the pay, which is pitiful. For example, @BigTParker has a master’s degree and over 20 years of teaching experience. And still he earned more as a delivery driver. “I made more doing Instacart during the pandemic, working on average 34 hours a week, than I did any year of teaching. I’ll never go back.”

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Perhaps the exodus is timely. “Every kid has major gaps from Covid, but we are supposed to meet pre-Covid standards by some miracle,” said @abbey_jo_fo_sho. “[and] do it with no help.

Read: Students in Denmark have mandatory empathy classes as part of the school curriculum

Between long and stressful hours, unsupportive administrations, and little pay, teachers’ mental health is on the decline. In fact, a RAND survey from June 2021 found that teachers were almost three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than other adults in different professions. [4] The pressure built up as teachers had to retool their curriculum and learn new technology to teach during the pandemic. Once schools reopened, began changes in health and safety regulations, declining behavior in students, and increasingly difficult parents. There was also a new curriculum to help students make up for lost work during lockdowns. Between the toll on physical and mental health, self-esteem, and life outside of their job, it’s no wonder teachers are thinking of calling it quits. 

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Teachers struggled before the pandemic too

Keep in mind, that some teachers who want to quit may not be able to. People cannot quit even the most taxing of jobs if they can’t afford it. For instance, being behind on bills, being a single parent, or taking care of someone with a health condition can force teachers into staying. If they don’t have a safety net, it’s nearly impossible. Plus, despite how bad the conditions could be, teachers become accustomed to the stress and exertion. They may think it’s normal and quitting means the unknown, something even more terrifying. [5]

Furthermore, teaching didn’t become difficult as a result of the pandemic. It was stressful and taxing beforehand too. In 2019, teachers went on strike for better pay and student resources. Rather, the increases in issues and demands as a result of the pandemic became the last straw for many teachers. 

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“People are posting about how burnt out they are, how frustrated they are, how close to the edge they are,” said Henry Rivera Leal, 32. He started teaching English at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana in August 2015. But he quit in September 2020. “I think It gets to that point with teachers because we never get in it for the money in the first place. No one goes into teaching thinking that they’re going to be making a lot of money. You go into it because it’s something that you want to do. And we’ve reached the point where that’s been exploited. When you exploit someone to a certain point, people start to reconsider their options.” [6]

Keep Reading: Kindergarten Teachers Want Incoming Students To Focus on Life Skills, Not Academic Ones

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Sources

  1. “Poll Results: Stress And Burnout Pose Threat Of Educator Shortages.” National Education Association. GBAO. January 31, 2022
  2. “More than half of teachers are looking for the exits, a poll says.NPR. Anya Kamenetz. February 1, 2020
  3. “Almost Every Teacher at This School Is Leaving. Is This a Sign of Things To Come?We Are Teachers. Abigail Gilman. March 25, 2022
  4. “Job-Related Stress Threatens the Teacher Supply.RAND Surveys. Elizabeth D. Steiner, Ashley woo. 2021
  5. “The Mental Health Crisis Causing Teachers to Quit.EdSurge. Stephen Noonoo. May 2, 2022
  6. “‘I felt like I was being experimented on’: 1 in 4 teachers are considering quitting after this past year.” CNBC. Abigail Johnson Hess. June 24, 2021
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