Yes, Teachers Are Leaving

National Public Radio reported last month that the National Education Association, the country’s largest teacher’s union, conducted a poll of its members, and 55 percent of respondents reported that they will leave the profession sooner than they had planned.  The NPR report explains obvious factors such as complications brought on by the Covid pandemic, burnout, poor pay, and unfilled vacancies that result in more duties for remaining teachers.

Each of these reasons merit deeper examination.  Even as classrooms appear to be returning to what we want to call normal, the learning experience for students has profoundly changed.  This will have implications not merely for learners but for the millions of new teachers that schools will bring into classrooms over the next decade, not to mention the teachers dedicated or desperate enough to remain.  Learning setbacks over the past two years will require immense, coordinated efforts to overcome.  Moreover, the very digital technology that we employed to aid in instruction during the pandemic is rife with elements counter to the work of learning, and that technology is ever more a permanent part of modern education.

This adds depth to the phenomenon of teacher burnout.  As circumstances continue to place obstacles between teachers and students, professionals must work harder in order to reach learners, to get them to engage, and to give the learning experiences enduring relevance.  Prior to the pandemic, teaching was grueling enough and in most instances only modestly remunerative.  For teachers to work harder, maintain their spirits, accept mediocre professional compensation, regain momentum lost to the pandemic, and do so as administrators struggle to regain schoolwide consistency and quality related to staffing represents an unprecedented set of demands.

And all of this is daunting in even the schools that enjoy the best of circumstances.  Looking, however, to communities with economic and social disadvantages, we can see that the work becomes exponentially more confounding.

In short, a major crisis looms for public education.  Educators, families, and the nation as a whole must recognize this immediately and take on this challenge.  Our entire society depends upon it.

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.

14 thoughts on “Yes, Teachers Are Leaving

  1. “…rife with elements counter to the work of learning…” is what hits home to me the most here. And what a salient slice this is. As a veteran teacher, I observe with deep reservation and dismay at the continued embrace of technology by administrators for ages that are inappropriate for such sustained screen-gazing in the classroom. Primary aged learners who are still learning to write do not belong in front of a keyboard for work production. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

  2. It is a little overwhelming to think of the gaps all these departing teachers (and administrators) will leave behind.

  3. I retired this past June – it was planned two years in advance, so not pandemic related. I’m glad I was able to retire when I did though. The previous year and a half were exhausting. Many of my teacher friends are wishing they could retire. You are correct, we are heading for a crisis.

    1. I hope for federal intervention for this problem. I could feasibly retire from public education as early as next year, but I would still want to work, and I would only like to teach. We shall see. Thanks for reading my post.

  4. As a new educator (who started in 2020 just in time for Covid) I agree with so many elements of your post. From when I started and even up until now I have heard so many teachers say how they just want to retire. I really thought when I started in teaching that I would hear much more different commenting than “I can’t wait until this is over.” As a new educator this truly scares me, as I switched careers to pursue education. Thank you for shedding the truth about this very volatile topic.

    1. Thanks for reading my post and expressing its resonance for you. You bring up another grave concern: the effect that the exodus will have on teachers entering the profession. I truly hope the current state of things does not discourage you. Indeed, you and others joining this noble endeavor will help define a new era for public education. I simply have concerns about having enough dedicated, qualified, and energetic candidates. Intervention on the federal level will be necessary, as will coordination with every corner of our system.

  5. It terrifies me how much truth is in your post. After 8 years of teaching, I am starting to feel the weight of this profession, especially after these recent years. My heart will always teach. But myself, and a few colleagues, are beginning to burn out too. I, too, hope there is a much-needed, resolution too.

    1. I simply hope attention and resources are brought to bear quickly. I relate to your remark about the weight of this profession, and it becomes more grave each year. Thanks for reading my post and commenting.

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