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1 in 5 Teachers Likely to Resign if Schools Are Forced to Open in the Fall


1 in 5 Teachers Likely to Resign if Schools Are Forced to Open in the Fall

Pushing teachers into unsafe classrooms is driving more of them out of schools.

Despite the strong arguments teachers have made against the dangers and uncertainties of returning to classrooms in the fall, policymakers have plodded ahead to unveil unsatisfactory plans to reopen schools. Rather than advancing students’ education, however, pushing teachers back into unsafe classrooms is having the adverse effect of driving even more teachers away. Here are some of the ways that coercing teachers to teach during the pandemic is working to deplete the teaching profession. 

Teachers refuse to return to unsafe classrooms. 

Before the last school year even ended, a May poll of American educators found that 1 in 5 teachers would likely resign if schools were forced open in the fall. Weighing the options of health versus employment, these teachers would rather suffer economic hardship than the loss of a loved one. These are teachers who, under normal conditions, would not even think of leaving the profession until after they had achieved a long and fulfilling career culminating in a timely retirement.

Teachers are cutting their careers short. 

For some late-career teachers, a timely retirement is no longer an option. Due to the increased risk of complications and death from coronavirus for people their age, teachers who have worked long enough to receive partial retirement benefits are taking early retirement. Though these teachers have invaluable experience and many good teaching years left in them, they have no choice but to depart when the educational system needs them most. 

Teachers recognize that they may not survive. 

Teachers are going to die. There is no telling how many, but opening schools during a pandemic is sure to claim the lives of many capable, caring teachers. That’s the way illness works. In light of this unprecedented job hazard, teachers are writing wills and making end-of-life plans to prepare for the worst-case scenario of returning to live instruction. These teachers are willing to risk their lives for their students. And they may end up doing just that.

Teachers are facing greater burnout. 

Despite having had the summer to prepare, many districts have failed to produce return-to-school plans that meet the demands of educating during a pandemic. Teaching during the pandemic already hit teachers hard in the spring, and many reopening plans are heaping added responsibilities, such as working the double shift of maintaining both virtual and in-person learning, on teachers’ weary shoulders. Those teachers who tough it out this year risk burning themselves out past the point of being able to return next year. 

Teachers are seeking online options. 

Despite the public outcry against the shortcomings of remote teaching, a less vocal minority of teachers enjoyed some unexpected benefits of teaching online. For these teachers, the sudden closures of the pandemic led them to discover solutions for issues inherent in classroom teaching and define a better niche for themselves in the educational sphere. Knowing that one-third of parents are contemplating not sending their children back to in-person schooling in the fall, these teachers are eager to step up to the increased demand for virtual teachers and leave the unsafe classroom behind them.

Potential teachers will never enter the profession. 

Before the coronavirus had even begun to turn the world of education on its head, enrollment in college teacher preparation programs had been suffering a sharp decline. Even then, future professionals couldn’t justify incurring a lifetime of college debt for a profession infamous for its low pay and lack of support. During the pandemic, these same students witnessed a barrage of news reports and social media posts first predicting massive budget cuts and layoffs in schools, then urging teachers to get back to work (as if they hadn’t been working all along) despite the risks to their health. The inevitable truth is that young people are watching, and the negative publicity surrounding teaching during the pandemic will cause many great potential teachers to spurn the profession for safer, better-compensated options.

With teachers making such plans against the return to school during the pandemic, the lack of adequate safety measures will decimate the numbers of qualified teachers willing and able to serve in the traditional classroom. Compounded with the existing teacher shortage that has left schools scrambling to fill classrooms with highly qualified educators, the decision to open schools amid a pandemic is bound to have devastating long-term effects on the teaching profession and on the quality of education that brick-and-mortar schools can provide.

1 in 5 Teachers Likely to Resign if Schools Are Forced to Open in the Fall

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