The coronavirus pandemic has put significant pressure on America’s teachers. Some have been asked to weigh risks to their personal health and teach in person. Some have been asked to teach from behind computer screens and perfect distance learning. Many have been asked to do both.
These pressures are taking a toll on teachers across the country.
According to a new report, 77% of educators are working more today than a year ago, 60% enjoy their job less and 59% do not feel secure in their school district’s health and safety precautions. Roughly 27% say they are considering leaving their job, retiring early or taking a leave of absence because of the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, large numbers of U.S. educators were already leaving the profession due to the financial pressure the job puts on their lives,” reads the report. “Then COVID-19 came along.”
Horace Mann Educators Corporation surveyed 1,240 U.S. educators from K-12 public schools for the report.
Richard Milner, professor of education at Vanderbilt University says these figures do not surprise him.
“In fact, I suspect those numbers will probably increase over time,” he says. “Many teachers are barely keeping their heads above water and we don’t know how much longer we’re going to be in thisspace.”
Teachers have long raised concerns about the difficult financial circumstances that educators often face. Over the past several years tens of thousands of teachers have gone on strike for improved pay and school funding.
These financial concerns are also highlighted in the Horace Mann report: “Educators’ salaries have been falling further behind the compensation of their college-educated peers, while educators’ college costs (and the resulting student loans) have risen sharply. As a result, many educators find their debt burdens can feel insurmountable and delay or prevent achievement of other life goals, such as starting a family, buying a house or saving for retirement.”
Beyond improved pay and school funding, Milner adds that “educators really, really, really need strong psychological and mental health support in this moment.”
“Teachers are grappling with and working through the same things that their students are,” he says. “Many teachers are grappling with the loss of loved ones and teachers of color, and in particular, are grappling with these issues.”
Estimates suggest that 31% of Black adults and 17% of Hispanic adults know someone firsthand who has been killed by Covid — compared to just 9% of those who are White.
“I know teachers with whom I’m working who are checking in on their students, making those phone calls to social workers to make sure families are taken care of because the parents are working or the parents have just been laid off,” says Milner. “We’ve got to build stronger respect for teachers.”