The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 300,000 public school educators quit between February 2020 and May 2022. K-12 teachers were reported to have the highest burnout rate of all professions in 2022. For many schools, hiring teachers and keeping teachers have become a significant problem. We know that managing COVID presented some significant challenges to teachers and many decided to leave teaching. However, there are a lot of other contributing factors. I was reading a recent article in BuzzFeed where teachers were quoted as to why they left teaching. I found the quotes to be illuminating. Here are a few of them:
“This is my last year of teaching. I simply can’t do it anymore. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting right now. What we are being asked to do is impossible. I’m tired of being abused by the system, administrators who forget what it’s like in the classroom, rude and entitled students, and parents.”
“I’ll be leaving teaching after this year — my sixth year teaching. I have tenure, and I was teacher of the year, but I don’t want a job that requires active shooter drills anymore. It’s not normal. I take my job very seriously because I truly believe it makes a huge impact, but the added pressure that my decision could mean life or death for my students is too much. I sometimes think I sound weak or dramatic saying this, but I just want to teach and create a positive environment, not have to make life-and-death decisions.”
The stupid, useless requirements, the idiotic state testing, the abysmal pay for the hours and hours I put in — that killed my love for teaching. And it’s killing plenty of other young, passionate educators. I miss my students. I miss everything about teaching when I was allowed to teach. Now? It’s not teaching. If you want to teach, get into higher education or a private school. Do yourself a favor and stay out of public education in the United States. It doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I was an educator for a decade and left in late 2021. Until I left, I had no idea what the stress had been doing to my body, and I underestimated the impact that the job had on my mental health. You are constantly put into impossible situations with impossible choices and made to feel like no matter how much you’re doing, you need to do more. It’s nearly impossible to describe the insulting pay, nonexistent work-life balance, and stress levels to people outside the career field.”
“I worked in a high-needs behavior class. I got hit, punched, scratched, and spat on daily, but every day, I went back and did my best for those kids. I was so battered and bruised that my husband wouldn’t shop with me anymore because people would stare and sometimes comment to him about mistreating me. It was sickening, but I loved my job and every one of those kids. One day, I was called to the office to talk. It was Christmastime, and things weren’t great at home. As anyone with kids knows, the holidays make children especially high-strung, so things were also wild in the classroom. My boss said, ‘You seem awfully stressed.’ I thought, How nice of her to notice. I agreed and told her I was struggling. She then told me, ‘You have six weeks to sort it out or I’ll have to let you go.'”
I recognize that these stories may have been surfaced because of their severity but these stories do represent some of the struggles that teachers face. It is no wonder that we have a significant teacher shortage and that we are in a crisis within our educational system. Teachers are extremely stressed and frustrated and we need to provide safe environments for them and for their students.
We work diligently at Lakeside to help our teachers stay safe and supported. This needs to be a universal mission in public education or we will struggle to maintain our schools and the students they serve. Teaching is an admirable profession and as a society we will need to be vigilant to support our teachers while they work diligently to prepare our next generation for their relational and educational growth.