Teacher burnout is nothing new. Over the past few years several factors like low wages, increased duties and just more stress in general have driven thousands of teachers out of the profession. Then COVID-19 came along and made everything even harder. We never expected teaching during a pandemic to be a piece of cake. However, it’s pretty clear that no one expected things to be this hard on education as a whole. Now a new survey is showing us just how large a problem it is.
A November survey of teachers by Horace Mann reveals that 27% of teachers are considering either quitting or taking a leave of absence because of the issues surrounding COVID-19. That would be a huge jump over the traditional 8-9% attrition rates that education sees in a normal year. The main culprit here: safety. 59% of those surveyed said they don’t feel like their district’s safety and health protocols are enough.
Image source: From The Hidden Impact of COVID-19 on Educators –– Horace Mann Educators Corporation
22% of teachers say they or a member of their family has tested positive for COVID-19. As the school year has worn on, students have grown tired of wearing masks. They have become far less vigilant in washing hands and cleaning their workspaces. Teachers are worried about their finances if they get sick. Only 34% of teachers report feeling confident their employee benefits will be enough to cover sick time if they contract COVID-19.
“We are super-exposed to the virus. I see 50 students from different households every day. If I contract the virus and cannot work, I do not get paid.”– Second-grade teacher, Horace Mann Survey respondent
This problem is expected to become even worse as states start easing their policies and mandates. Texas Governor Greg Abbott as of March 10th ended all COVID-related mask mandates. This has upset teachers’ unions across the state. Union reps say this move will make schools even more of a COVID hotspot than they already are. This could lead to more teachers walking out the door and not coming back.
In addition to concerns about health and safety, COVID has also negatively affected the bank accounts and financial futures of many teachers. The Horace Mann survey revealed that 64% of teachers have cut down on the amount of money they put in their savings accounts. 29% have reduced how much they put towards retirement. Many teachers need side jobs to make ends meet. Those side jobs were hit hard by the pandemic.
A recent survey of teachers by the RAND Corporation showed that stress was the number one reason teachers left their jobs before the pandemic. In that same survey, more than half of the teachers who left since March 2020 said they made the decision because of COVID-19. Pandemic teaching certainly has amplified the stress of an already stressful profession.
As we hit the one-year mark of the pandemic, the totality of the effects it’s having on education is still being realized. Some of the short-term issues like learning gaps and falling test scores will smooth over with time, but it’s the long-term ramifications that have education leaders concerned. For a nation that’s already dealing with a teacher shortage, losing more educators could have a domino effect that leads to larger classroom sizes and even more stress for those teachers that remain.
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