Educators across the country say they are burned out and stressed out, according to a survey of teachers in the largest teachers' union in the country.
More than half, 55%, say they will leave their jobs earlier than planned, a survey from the National Education Association said.
“I am not surprised by this. This has been an extremely difficult, stressful two years, frankly, since March 2020,” said Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego Education Association, the union representing teachers in the San Diego Unified School District.
First came online learning, then hybrid learning, early retirements, then the hope to get back to normal when schools opened in the fall, followed by staffing shortages made worse by the omicron variant.
Three-fourths of NEA members surveyed said they have had to fill in for colleagues or take other duties due to staff shortages. Unless elected officials act, the survey shows, schools face an exodus.
More than half (55%) plan to leave education sooner than planned because of the pandemic. That’s an increase from 37% in August.
"We get calls to the office almost daily asking, can I leave mid-year? So, there are folks here in San Diego looking at, 'How do I, or can I leave?'" Borden said.
U.S. & World
The survey shows burnout and stress are real.
"This has been such a scary time, this is nothing that we’ve been trained for," said high school teacher Mark Van Over.
According to the survey, 90% of NEA members say burnout is a serious problem, with 67% saying it is very serious. Ninety-one percent say pandemic stress is a serious problem for educators.
“There’s been so many hits from different directions, from the pandemic itself, to online learning and teaching, to the drama surrounding returning to school," said Van Over. “Whether or not they should have vaccination mandates for either teachers or students, or fighting over mask wearing, these things make their way into our environment and they complicate the routine we need to have.”
The survey says NEA members support several proposals to address burnout, including increasing pay, hiring more staff, and providing more mental health support for students.
Borden and Van Over add there could be an extension of COVID sick leave for educators, so they do not have to worry about using all their sick time. A pay raise would make them feel respected for what they do under these extraordinary circumstances.
"I think that with greater compensation, that perhaps makes teachers feel like, 'We recognize the amount of time you’re having to put into this job.' This was not the way it was three years ago, and the types of risks that you’re looking at, I think that (pay raise) could be something that perhaps could make teachers pause before they leave the positions, leave the profession altogether," Borden said.
Borden added compassion and grace would go a long way, too.
"I always say we need to give each other as much grace as we can because we’re all going through something that we’ve never encountered before and we’re just sort of figuring it out as we go. So, let’s give each other grace, and understand our educators are doing the best they can."