‘Burnout and underpaid’: Teachers across the US are quitting their jobs in droves | Coronavirus

In the United States, teachers are resigning or retiring early as schools reopened for the new school year and Covid-19 cases among children have increased in recent weeks in the face of some states banning mask mandates.

There have been more than 200,000 weekly cases reported in children for the past five consecutive weeks, with most cases spreading to areas without a school mask mandate in place and low vaccination rates as vaccines for children children under 12 are still awaiting federal approval.

Several schools and school districts have been periodically forced to shut down in-person learning due to exposure to Covid or high infection rates, leaving teachers struggling to continue their lessons despite the disruptions.

The shortage of teachers in the United States was already a growing problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in very poor schools. The shortage has worsened during the pandemic. Some schools closed when too many teaching posts could not be filled, while others are struggling with higher than normal teaching vacancies, leaving remaining teachers overburdened with work.

In Florida, teacher vacancies this year are up more than 67% from August 2020 and 38.7% from August 2019.

Amanda Tower, an elementary school teacher in Collier County, Florida, resigned from her post before the 2021-2022 school year, which would have marked the start of her 12th year of teaching.

She said her school district had stopped consistently enforcing Covid-19 safety protocols, classrooms were tight and poorly ventilated, students weren’t required to wear masks and often entered class when that they were sick, and that the teachers were getting a lot of pushback from the science deniers. She said changes in the curriculum, training and new mandatory procedures along with miscommunication or direction from the administration were other reasons that prompted her to quit.

“I needed a change for my physical and mental health and that of my family, some of whom have conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid. There was a lack of transparency in the figures reported and the pressure to make business as usual. It was way too much,” Tower said. “I didn’t want to be a martyr. I loved my job. I’m going to miss my kids, but I can’t pour from an empty container. .

Nearly 10% of teachers in Providence, Rhode Island, resigned or retired early from the city’s school district before the start of the school year. Michigan public schools saw a 44% increase in mid-year teacher retirements during the 2019-20 school year. In Fort Worth, Texas, the school district had 314 teaching jobs vacant at the start of this school year, up from 71 in the 2019-20 school year, before the pandemic.

Bethany Olson, a high school teacher in Kentucky, resigned from her teaching job in August 2021 after losing her father to Covid-19 in June.

“Covid has made it untenable to continue,” Olson said. “The reality is that school can’t really be safe during this pandemic because we have so many people who can’t or won’t get vaccinated, and we’ve gone back to overwhelmed classrooms as if the pandemic was over.”

After 19 years, Leigh Hart quit her job as an elementary school teacher in Maryland before the start of this school year, citing aggressive parents during the pandemic and insurmountable workloads.

Jessica Crane works with second graders at Kelly School in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Jessica Crane works with second graders at Kelly School in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

“At some point you realize you’re giving more than you’ll ever get back,” Hart said. “I love kids. I love the challenge and the realization that you can actually make a difference. But it’s really disheartening to know how undervalued you are.

In addition to vacant teaching positions, schools across the United States are facing food supply shortages and struggling to find enough bus drivers, janitors and other support staff. Many are also facing a shortage of substitute teachers, who are needed more than ever to replace sick or quarantined teachers.

“They don’t give us numbers or report it, but we see in our buildings how badly we all have to replace missing teachers. That’s way more than normal,” said Steven Singer, a middle school teacher in western Pennsylvania. “Myself, I made several trips to the hospital last week because of my Crohn’s disease. The stress of the pandemic is weighing on me and all of us. We’re just at a breaking point. This crisis for teachers did not start with Covid. We have low salaries, little respect, little autonomy, and nobody listens to us. Now we are forced to risk our lives and our health.

At least 378 active teachers have died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, along with hundreds of other school workers. Several surveys have shown that teachers are more likely to leave the profession due to increased stress and burnout during the pandemic, coupled with pre-existing issues such as lack of resources and low salaries.

Cathy Bullington, an elementary school art teacher in Bedford, Indiana, is preparing for early retirement due to the difficulty of teaching during the pandemic and because teachers have been left out of decision-making processes, issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Teaching during the pandemic has been the hardest thing I have had to do in my 30 year teaching career. Nothing prepares you for it. We had no plan for this and now the plan keeps changing,” Bullington said. “Teachers leave because they are exhausted, stressed and underpaid. We had many more requirements. »

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