The pandemic took an extraordinary toll on teachers, and now the data is showing just how severe it was. After more than two years of virtual teaching, masking, and trying to fill the education gap created by the pandemic, some teachers Call it quits. For some, it was a decision they had already started thinking about before the pandemic. For others, it ended up being the motivation to dig deeper into their role to find a new passion for it.
A February 2022 National Education Association The survey alerted Americans to just how dire the teacher shortage could be—55 percent of teachers were considering quitting, up from 37 percent the previous August. The survey pointed to pandemic-related stress, which 91 percent said was a serious problem for teachers, with 90 percent labeling burnout a “serious” problem and 67 percent labeling it a “very serious” problem. Here are some of their stories, from those who have left the profession as well as those thinking about it.
Katherine Aulicino, 5-year experienced science teacher of 9th and 10th grade science
Olicino recently dropped out after becoming a teacher in Ohio after feeling a “sense of disintegration.”
“We don’t teach for money and fame, but after becoming a teacher I felt such a disintegration. The education system was built on unpaid teacher hours. I can’t think of another industry where that is the case (at a government subsidized level). I was shocked by the lack of resources, classrooms, funding, support, and I worked for a better district.”
But what she said was that she eventually decided to share a room with the art teacher as the science teacher needed to do the labs.
“I teach high school science—[with] No safety showers, sinks, outlets, bunsen burners, counter space, lab equipment, or time to tear down/set up labs because art would start after my classes and I had to travel during my planning bell. It was a logistical nightmare and it made it impossible to do my job properly.”
Takshi Chopra, a middle school science teacher with 11 years of experience
Chopra’s experience shows the teacher shortage epidemic isn’t just an American dilemma — she taught in Ghaziabad, UP, India. “The profession is considered great for a reason – because teachers are influential. In my case, I think that was monitored by the amount of impact I was able to make.” So, after 11 years, she quit teaching, though she loves being around children and says she is “invigorated” by their joy and enthusiasm for learning.
“A tightly laid out instructional lesson plan, what you do, how you do it, looks great on paper but in front of the students, we have to improve. When management started having their say in every decision I made with my kids in my classroom, even when I was meeting their receptive/learning needs – that was the beginning of it.”
For her, the “final nail in the coffin” was when teachers were asked to work for less pay, while they had already doubled their shifts and neglected their health and that of their families — a question she says is “not embraced.” by. She made her decision in the firm belief that her employer could replace her at any time, even though she gave them everything “day and night, in sickness and in health.” She says her stress levels and health have already improved since making the decision.
But she also says, “I miss my kids. I miss the energy that surrounds me. Once a teacher, always a teacher.”
Stephanie Sims, a 5-year special education teacher who runs a multi-disability unit
Ohio-based teacher Stephanie Sims quit teaching just before the pandemic began and says she’s glad to avoid the “dumpster fire” that is virtual teaching with more restrictions and more issues. He taught middle school in an urban setting. When she had her third child, and her first class moved through graduation, she says she “ran away from there as fast as I could.”
For her, the reason was never the students, whom she loved, or even the parents, whom she calls allies. “I had to spend so much time trying to prove that I was a good teacher that I wasn’t actually going to be a good teacher.” This was because she was part of RESA, Ohio’s Resident Educator Program that lasted at least four years and required multi-level assignments, videos, and evidence of classroom competency that she found unrealistic in the daily events of a “real” classroom. with real children. “You had to picture a perfectly manicured classroom.”
Sims explains that the education system isn’t set up to account for many of the basic needs that students need to learn, including bathing, food, and a safe home, all of which are transferred to the classroom. . “There are a lot of improvements that need to happen.” She now runs a financial planning blog focusing on moms, and says she still teaches in that form, just with a different type of student.
Anita*, a 5-year experienced high school science teacher
“Last year was absolutely painful for me. I went in with great hope that things would return to normal after both 2019-20 and 2020-21 tough years. But it wasn’t normal,” says Anita*, whose name has been changed for privacy and who teaches in Wisconsin. “I was still dealing with burnout from the last few years. And it was difficult for me to get used to teaching in person again.
But the stress wasn’t enough to actually quit. “Even when things are impossible, my students put a smile on my face. They are the light of my life. And I knew my rising seniors next year from back when they were freshmen, so I knew I wanted to be there for them.” She calls it a “painful” decision because both her head and body were telling her she needed a break. “My heart was telling me to keep fighting.”
She says she felt it wasn’t fair to try to pour from an empty cup, so she stayed around the kids, but “without lesson plans and grading responsibilities, it was killing me mentally last year.”
“I’m very thankful that my school’s administrators didn’t accept it, but they were thrilled to have me in this role. I’m also very happy that I’m financially secure enough to make the move. I hope to be teaching full-time again in a few years. I See this as a ‘see you later’ for full-time teaching, not a ‘goodbye’.
Sam*, a middle and high school English language arts teacher with 11 years of experience
Ohio English teacher Sam*, whose name has been changed for privacy, considered quitting several times during the pandemic.
“My commute is heavy. Many jobs have moved to a hybrid model or a work-from-home model, but my job doesn’t offer virtual options, even though it promises. It’s especially hard not to have work-from-home options when childcare facilities are closed or illness is rampant,” she says. . “I decided to tough it out in education because I admire and enjoy the other teachers in my building, because I have a good reputation in my district, and I have solid co-teachers that I can rely on. It’s these relationships that have kept me in my career field.
In just one pandemic month, she paid $3,000 in child care expenses for one child, because her day-care center closed but had to continue paying while she sought more care. “I’m worried about this year but a little optimistic because the rules are getting looser.”
Liz Oppelt, a 9-year high school theater and social studies teacher
Despite considering a career change, Oppelt remains in teaching because she is “making a difference at the most fundamental level—I work with students and help them personally.” She says no other career has such a special influence.
“There are specific groups of students I currently work with and students I work with that I’m not sure would be anyone else if I left. Many teachers I loved and trusted are gone. I don’t know who will be left to save my children. We are losing a lot of good teachers, and I don’t blame them for leaving. But I worry about what will be left when they all leave.”
She also points out that the financial burden of furthering one’s education to change career paths is limited.
It remains to be seen what will happen with the extreme teacher shortage in the country and the world. Many predict that it will only get worse systematic improvement, such as increased pay, less focus on test scores, and additional measures, take place. Until these changes are made, teachers and administrators will suffer, and unfortunately, so will the children.