Many teachers have filled classrooms for the last time when schools break down for the summer, leaving a profession where stress has multiplied as a nationwide teacher shortage threatens to grow.
About 300,000 public school teachers and other staff left the camp between February 2020 and May 2022, a nearly 3% decline in that workforce, according to Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Exhausted by the challenges of teaching in recent years, more educators say they are considering doing the same: A National Education Association survey conducted this year found that 55% of teachers said they would leave education earlier than expected. , compared to 37% last year in August.
Struggling with distance learning and moving Covid-19 security protocols has been difficult enough, teachers say. But as schools filled with students, other stressors emerged: understaffing, controversial debates over masking politics, political battles over what teachers can and cannot discuss or teach in the classroom.
The May massacre in Uvalde, Texas has also renewed concerns over gun violence, according to some. There have been 249 school shootings last year and at least 152 so far in 2022, according to a database from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
“I felt so helpless,” said Wendy Grider, 49, who quit her fourth-grade teaching job in Rocklin, California this month. She’s seen her parents over the past year turn to social media to criticize teachers in her district for homework, she said. And there have been several cases in her class of hers, she said, where a student beat a staff member or threatened her. One of the few things she left behind was a mural in the classroom that she and a student teacher had made out of butcher paper and twinkling lights with the words “Be nice”.
“The reason I kept teaching was for the actual teaching and for the kids, which is really what you think it should be all about,” said Ms. Grider, who isn’t sure what she’ll do next. “Unfortunately, it turned into a very small percentage of the job.”
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Such pressures are straining already shrunken teachers due to staff shortages, particularly in science, math, special education, and early childhood education, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Among public schools, 44% declared full or part-time teaching vacancies at the beginning of the year, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics. More than half of the schools said those vacancies were due to resignations and had required them to rely more on non-teaching staff outside their normal duties.
School administrators say these shortcomings will worsen as many more educators step down and some say they have had to cut back on summer school schedules. In Wisconsin, the Madison Metropolitan School District said it would not be able to provide a summer school for 600 students who had enrolled, citing staffing problems.
Ms. Grider and other teachers say school districts can help prevent further discharge. In a letter to her school board earlier this year, she outlined tips for making teachers feel more valued, including giving teachers more of their working day for planning and collaboration, reducing class sizes, and give more public recognition to staff. Others say that simply higher pay would help retain and bring in new teachers.
Scott Henderson, 43, quit his job as a third-grade social studies teacher in Herriman, Utah in the middle of the school year. Mass chaos had become a routine scene in his class, he said, as some students struggled to readjust to learning in person. On one occasion last fall, he walked out of his classroom for a few minutes to talk to a parent who had come unannounced; when he returned, several students were throwing tampons at the ceiling while another rummaged through Mr. Henderson’s desk, he said.
“Seeing the children of people being able to make those connections about things they weren’t able to do before, I miss for sure,” Henderson said. In August, he begins a master’s in didactic design, which he expects will be a much less stressful career.
A LOOK TO THE PAST
The resignations of teachers in public and private schools have been a boon to hiring managers in other sectors desperate for capable talent in a tight job market. According to data from LinkedIn, classroom instructors are getting sales roles and jobs such as instructional instructors, software engineers, and behavioral health technicians.
Daphne Gomez, a career coach who works with teachers trying to break into new occupations, said that, more recently, tech companies have turned to her for help by appealing to departing teachers.
“Some companies are creating landing pages that say, ‘Hey, former teachers! This is a good fit, ‘”she said. “These are highly qualified people with masters. You can train them in sales.
Some teachers say they are concerned about the effect their resignation will have on schools. Talia Elefant, a special math teacher in Elmhurst, Queens, said she was looking forward to traveling, networking and simply improving her mental and physical health since she decided to quit her job eventually. of the summer. She also felt a sense of guilt for the colleagues she will leave behind her.
When a teacher resigns, he said, the work piles up on those who remain. “Those people are overworked and will want to leave,” said Ms. Elefant, who has taught a variety of classes in private and public schools for the past seven years. “If we don’t solve this problem as a society, we won’t have teachers anymore.”
Write to Kathryn Dill at [email protected]
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