Extra lecturers plan to cease as Covid stress overwhelms educators

The challenges of in-person or online teaching have pushed the educators to their limits.

After nearly a full year of either putting themselves at risk in a classroom or struggling to reach students remotely, many are now saying they could change their careers or just quit.

“Teachers have felt the brunt of how drastically this pandemic has changed our world,” said Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, a national professional body.

“The demands that are made of them are not in the charts.”

At a time when many state and local governments are struggling to recruit and retain educators, a nationwide survey of public education professionals found that growing numbers are ready to leave their jobs.

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Overall, K-12 employees’ overall satisfaction with their employers fell from 69% in March 2020 to 44% in October, according to a report by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. Of the roughly 3.5 million full-time and part-time teachers in public schools, more than a third, or 38%, said they thought about changing jobs because of work during the pandemic.

At the college level, even more – about 55% – of faculties have seriously considered changing careers or early retirement. This comes from a separate report by Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The last 11 months have been emotionally charged across the board, the report says. However, women in particular were more likely to feel overworked and overwhelmed as a result of the pandemic, also because they were more likely to take on additional childcare responsibilities at home.

The pandemic has brought many faculty members to the brink of burnout.

Debra Frey

Head of Tax Free Marketing and Analytics at Fidelity Investments

“The pandemic has brought many faculty members to the brink of burnout,” said Debra Frey, director of tax-free marketing and analytics at Fidelity Investments.

“You have been asked to adapt to an insecure and ever-changing work environment over the past year while addressing the personal challenges that Covid has brought with it,” she said.

“Many feel overworked, tired and wonder if they even want to continue to be a teacher.”

Around three-quarters or 77% of educators work more today than they did a year ago, 60% enjoy their work less, and 59% feel unsafe about their school’s health and safety precautions, according to another report by Horace Mann.

Those considering early retirement may not be ready financially. Although 403 (b) account balances – the most common type of retirement plan for educators – have increased, the average grand total was only $ 106,000 at the end of 2020, according to Fidelity.

In addition, over the past year many schools have cut contributions to these employee retirement plans to reduce costs in the face of budget constraints.

At the same time, longstanding compensation measures, including fixed wages and pensions for permanent faculties, have made it difficult for schools to attract young talent or divert funds for technology upgrades or financial assistance in response to the current crisis.

“The work dynamics that have dictated education for the past 50 years has prioritized long-term contracts,” Sharkey said. “This is not the best for our educators or our students.”

Of course, while the Covid crisis continues, we need more teachers, not fewer.

“Every school needs funding now to pay for teachers,” said Joel Hall, English teacher at Forest Lake High School in Forest Lake, Minnesota. “There isn’t enough to go around.”

Before schools can fully reopen, facilities must first address overcrowded classrooms and a lack of available staff.

However, dividing large classes into smaller groups requires hiring even more full-time or part-time teachers, Hall said.

“Classes of 35 have never been the best for kids, which wouldn’t be a problem if we had the money to pay for another math teacher,” he added.

Fidelity surveyed more than 1,100 faculties at two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country in October. Of these, 48% were teachers, 11% were permanently employed, 16% were not permanently employed and 25% were part-time or additional faculties.

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence surveyed more than 1,200 state and local employees, including nearly 500 K-12 public school employees in October.

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