(NewsNation) — It’s been a rough few years for teachers, with schools nationwide reporting burnout among their staff, spurring concerns about a shortage of educators for the upcoming school year.
A number of states have been issuing fewer teaching licenses, and many districts have had trouble filling vacancies for years, according to the Associated Press. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue has gotten even worse. A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Education Association found 55% of members surveyed planned to leave the profession sooner than planned because of the pandemic.
While some states are trying strategies such as raising teacher salaries or seeking more educators from outside formal training programs, to address the shortage, officials in places such as Illinois, Georgia and Kansas are still worried about filling positions in the fall.
Meghan Whitty, a teacher from Nebraska, said in the Omaha Metro area, “We’re seeing droves of teachers leaving the profession now.”
According to an Omaha World-Herald article from May, more than 1,250 teachers left local districts, a more than 41% increase from last year. And as the newspaper notes, that number is likely a conservative estimate.
As a teacher, Whitty said, she and her colleagues wear several hats — making for a hectic day.
“You can’t teach, because you’re too busy being an IT person, you’re too busy being a therapist, you’re too busy being a chef,” she said. “It’s just exhausting, and that’s not something that we can maintain.”
And when one teacher at a school is out, that means their colleagues have to cover for them, too.
That’s all on top of a teacher’s regular responsibilities, too, Whitty pointed out, making it hard to build strong relationships with students.
Add in disrespect from students in the classroom, parents and officials, “It’s just too much.”
“I think the biggest issue we’re having right now is commitment to education. We know that students thrive and do well when they have high standards, and they’re held to those standards so they can feel successful,” Whitty said. “However, many behaviors and expectations are being excused because of the pandemic, instead of coming back and expecting those same standards of behaviors and academic levels to be applied.”
“To expect people to continue to work through that over and over and over— it burns you out,” Whitty added. “Piling on tech problems, students that need moral and physical support, meeting those social academic needs — it just builds up and builds up and builds up.”