Are teachers quitting their jobs due to COVID? See the alarming stats
“You always have to be on for the kids and act like everything’s fine”, a special education teacher told Buzzfeed about the climate in her profession now. Since COVID came to town, concerns about the children have reared their heads, particularly in education. After the COVID-19 pandemic rolled in, schools across the U.S. shut down, moving to “distance learning” until more research could be done on kids & COVID.
Immediately, concerns were raised about student success. The achievement gap was brought up, the reported number of rich vs. poor students who fall behind because they don’t have a computer or internet access at home to complete homework & projects. Mental health & domestic violence were also concerns raised. Would kids fall behind due to inconsistent learning, teaching styles, and the trauma of a pandemic?
More contentiously, how are teachers faring under the new demands of their jobs? Teaching jobs in the U.S. have been under scrutiny since the dawn of compulsory education. However, there seems to be new animosity between teachers, parents, and administrators around the question of reopening schools. There are even rumors about a mass exodus from education. Are they true? Take a seat because school’s in session!
Thanks to COVID-19, teachers in many districts across the U.S. have two types of teaching jobs: traditional, in a classroom, and managing “distance learning” through online education. Teachers reported the new stress they’re under, both in surveys and by reaching out with personal stories to media outlets. Here’s how some stats about teachers and their jobs break down.
According to CNBC, 77% of teachers reported working more at their jobs than last school year, and 60% of teachers enjoyed their jobs less. However, in the same article, CNBC reported that 73% of teachers weren’t considering quitting their jobs because of COVID, with 11% considering a leave of absence, 6% considering early retirement, and 10% considering quitting outright.
However, one teacher told Phi Delta Kappan, a journal for educators, that while her district isn’t doing a great job with social distancing, the reasons her colleagues quit during the 2020 school year didn’t have to do with COVID. They had to do with typical slings & arrows of teaching. “They don’t know how to manage even minor behavioral issues and, despite having mentor teachers, are totally overwhelmed”, she said.
Reportedly, people won’t even sub. Penna, who had been a teacher for twenty-five years, told Buzzfeed her school posted a job for “a long-term sub through the end of the year for a month, we cannot get a single applicant because nobody wants to do subbing”. Some teachers speculated whether substitutes were hard to find because subs tend to be retirees who are at higher risk if they contract COVID.
“I am fairly concerned for the future of our profession and whether we are seen as educated professionals or dispensable babysitters”, former private school teacher Jessica Olsen wrote Buzzfeed.
Indeed, many educators have claimed, jokingly or not, that the public views them as babysitters. An entire school board in California resigned after a tape leaked of them mocking parents and declaring “they (parents) want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back”.
As a parent, this pandemic has brought forth some incredible challenges.
This dad has had enough, we all have. No real metrics to safely open the schools, while the SB continues to kick the can further down the road. Many parents feel just as he does. #LCPS #openschools pic.twitter.com/Oa1GxNMzsp
— Aliscia Andrews (@alisciaandrews) January 26, 2021
In a contentious school board meeting in Washington state, an enraged dad, who told the school board he had to take time off of work to attend the meeting, loudly lambasted the school board for not re-opening schools, calling the school board “cowards”.
“You’re a bunch of cowards hiding behind our children as an excuse for keeping schools closed. You think you’re some sort of martyrs because of the decisions you’re making when the statistics do not lie that the vast majority of the population is not at risk from this virus”, he firmly said before shouting.
Kids & COVID
Initially, statistics about kids & COVID transmission were hopeful. The CDC said on their site: “Children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can get sick with COVID-19. Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic).”
That said, kids have died from COVID-19 and the CDC cautions that kids with autoimmune disease or babies under one were more likely to develop more serious symptoms. Also, while children may have less serious symptoms, they can still theoretically pass it to adults, including teachers doing their jobs.
Anyone who’s ever been around kids knows they’re not the best at remembering good hygiene habits, including washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, even when we’re not in a global pandemic. Teachers have also reported that getting kids to comply with mask-wearing & social distancing has become an uphill battle and a necessary part of their jobs.
“I believe my district has done a good job with our COVID precautions, but getting our students to follow them can be really challenging”, Michelle McLendon wrote to Buzzfeed. “We have to constantly tell them to spread out and pull their masks up.” McClendon added that her school is often short-staffed if a teacher has to go into quarantine due to a COVID exposure.
On the flipside, it’s been estimated that at least 500 teachers have died since COVID began, but per The New York Times, those numbers are hard to pin down. Still, some teachers are taking steps like taking out life insurance policies in case anything happens to them. One anonymous teacher even told Buzzfeed: “What we are discussing is what is the acceptable number of public school teachers to die.”