After the hybrid hell of the pandemic, I had high hopes that the coming years would be better. Different. Back to normal. But somehow each of the following years has felt like the hardest year ever.

Frankly, things are not back to normal. They’re worse. Far worse. The pandemic further created a divide between teachers and their communities: People that need each other to succeed, people that need each other for children to succeed. But the differences in opinions and politics are too great for common ground, and our systems are burning.

If you are reading articles such as this everywhere, there is a reason. Things are not getting better, and our united voices are growing louder and harder to ignore and write off as whiny and weak. And the reasons it’s excruciatingly difficult are common among staff across the country. However, is anyone listening?

Here are just six of the many reasons that this school year is the hardest year ever.

1. We can’t retain educational professionals. Any of them.

We are short bus drivers, substitutes, nurses, counselors, aides, custodians, and teachers.

There are ads on billboards inviting people to apply for all district jobs. My daughter who is a recent high school graduate received a letter encouraging her to be a substitute.

Because of the shortages, kids are stuffed in classrooms like sardines in a can, regardless of the obvious learning and health deficits of large class sizes.

How bad do school shortages have to get before they implement emergency actions? Begin with simple actions like truly listening to employees and eliminating work that isn’t currently necessary. That’s a start.

2. We are being micromanaged to death.

I walk into staff meetings, and I expect to hear Montel Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” blaring from the loudspeaker. We are instructed what to teach, how to teach, and what program to use. Short observations from people who haven’t been in the classroom for years frequently point out our weaknesses. We are working our hardest this year, and yet this is still not enough.

3. The behavior of kids (and their parents) is deplorable.

Yes, there is trauma everywhere. But why are teachers subjected to abusive behavior and then blamed for not being able to control it? Some of the disrespect that we are enduring should be way beyond our pay grade and, quite frankly, illegal.

Administrators should be the ones handling consequences and mental support. And, respect for teachers should be modeled from the top-down. There is something to be said for “having our backs.”

4. The world has changed, but teaching has not.

Although much of the pandemic seems behind us, it left a major mark on students and educators. They may not wear masks any more, but kids still suffer from the social conditioning they lost in those years. In fact, most have not learned the necessary skills to get along with others. But parents think anytime someone looks at their child sideways it is a case of bullying.

Yet, we are back to business as usual. Schools have even more testing as administration deems it necessary to deal with the learning loss. We, the teachers, know the opposite to be true.

Let’s forget about the tests for a while and this will give us more time to – I don’t know – TEACH.

5. Emotional stress is out of control.

The number one reason why teachers leave is that stress affects our emotional and physical health. Although some administrators are now putting actions behind their calls for self-care, the majority are not doing anything to help eliminate our stress.

In fact, they are piling more meaningless paperwork in order to increase achievement. I know I speak for all teachers when I say, “This doesn’t HELP ANYONE!”

6. Emergency actions need to be implemented NOW!

Teachers new to the profession this year are having the hardest time – and they aren’t sticking around to see if things get better. There are countless TikToks detailing teachers’ reasons for leaving. The retirement investment isn’t cutting it any longer.

It’s sad because people that would have gone on to change countless students’ lives won’t have the opportunity because they are quitting. It is becoming a national emergency.

Teachers need to be listened to and heard now before they are all gone.

I'm a teacher & here's why this is the hardest year ever