Teachers are Struggling

Teachers have been under-valued, under-funded, and under-resourced for years. The pandemic only made it worse.

Teachers are struggling + they have been for some time

Even before the pandemic, we had a teacher retention problem.

According to a the Learning Policy Institute, nearly two-thirds of teachers who left the field each year did so for reasons other than retirement or personal matters. They left because they were frustrated with testing pressures, they didn't have support in their school, and they were dissatisfied with the teaching career and working conditions .

The turnover rate is higher in Title I schools, where low-income families make up 40% of enrollment. And the rate is higher for BIPOC teachers than white teachers. Black teachers, in particular are leaving at "staggering rates". This was already a crisis but the pandemic has exacerbated stressful working conditions and deepened the structural inequalities that disproportionately impact BIPOC educators. This is a crisis for a profession that has such an important role in our communities and our nation.

Demoralization vs Burnout

Author & educator, Doris Santoro wrote about the important distinction between burnout and demoralization as it relates to the teacher experience.

Burnout is about exhaustion. We think about burnout as a very individual burden, one that can be addressed with self-care and personal boundary-setting. There is no doubt that teachers are experiencing exhaustion but Santoro thinks the more effective framing is demoralization.

Demoralization occurs when teachers "are prevented from enacting their values or reaping the moral rewards of their work."

Teachers enter the profession because they want to do what Howard Gardner calls, 'Good Work'- work that serves a social purpose and upholds the highest ethical standards of the profession. Teachers who enter the classroom to that work-  help young people explore, build skills, make connections and develop meaningful relationships- are increasingly confronted with a reality that thwarts their efforts. Before the pandemic, teachers were facing the pressures of standardization, high-stakes testing and compliance. They are still faced with that but with the added burden of closing academic gaps while communities are still struggling with the trauma of death, grief, and uncertainty.

Teachers come to the classroom to do 'Good Work', we should do everything we can to enable that.