In a recent article in Harvard’s Ed. Magazine, author Elizabeth Christopher highlights the fact that post-quarantine educators are, simply, tired.
When the pandemic began, there was fear and uncertainty, but there was also community and creativity. Many banded together to quickly address remote classroom options, reimagine curricula, and perform frequent wellness checks. As the quarantine kept extending, Christopher notes that extended time away from students “left educators feeling less effective than ever before,” adding that the rewards of teaching are fewer and farther between, “leading many to question whether or not to remain in the job,” (p. 46, Christopher, 2022).
“Parents were understanding at the start,” notes one educator who prefers to remain anonymous, “but as time went on their expectations changed and seemed like they were influenced by political opinions. It made us question everything, like what we were doing there in the first place.” That is discouraging to hear, considering the continuing challenges managed by so many.
These understandable sentiments have made it difficult for schools to retain their professionals. According to a 2021 Education Week report, 77% of district leaders and principals report moderate, severe, or “very severe” staffing shortages (Lieberman, 2021). This is a problem.
77% of district leaders and principals report moderate, severe, or “very severe” staffing shortages (Lieberman, 2021). This is a problem.
So let’s do something about it. The top 8 educator requests, as outlined by Christopher:
1. More Planning Time
Teachers in Japan spend 550 hours per year in front of students. U.S. Teachers spend double, 1,100 hours – they report not having nearly enough time to plan lessons, suggesting that schools want them to grade and plan during their own time. It is “not sustainable,” they say.
2. Focus on Learning Enjoyment, Not Learning Loss
Instead of continually fretting over what was lost and how behind students might be, let’s get back to the task of making learning enjoyable!
3. Trust Teachers’ Professional Judgement
These are pros. Administrations should offer increased agency, freedom, and trust – let the professionals be professionals without micromanaging and stunting their creativity. Accompany this with visibility procedures and professional development opportunities, then let them be experts.
4. Apprentice New Teachers
Student teaching is routinely cited as one of the most effective preparatory moments, especially when they are placed with a season veteran. Experiential learning done well seems to be best.
5. Recognize What Teachers are Up Against
Create some space within the work week to let teachers finalize grades, progress reports, and communicate with students and parents. Show some compassion, administrators! You can do so without foregoing accountability. These folks are swamped.
6. Greater Diversity
“83% of teachers are white women” says Harvard Professor Jal Mehta, and “only 7% of public-school educators are black,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. We are missing a ton of talented people out there. We can do better.
7. More Competitive Pay
This part is an absolute. How do you 1) retain educators, 2) attract talented people to the field, and 3) justly compensate the continually increasing workload teachers experience? Pay them. No more lip service to how important teachers are. Show them.
8. Use Technology to Give Teachers More Flexibility
Hybrid systems, virtual meetings, and many of the technological creativity picked up during the pandemic should be utilized to put hours back into teachers’ days. We learned a lot, let’s carry it forward.
If children are the future (of course they are), then there is no more meaningful task that the education and empowerment of those children, that future. Right?
Believing that is one thing. Acting on it is another. Let’s do right by our educators – starting with these 8 steps.
Read the ORIGINAL ARTICLE in Ed. Magazine.
Christopher, E. (2022). Teachers Are Tired. Ed. Magazine, 170, p. 44-51
Lieberman, M. (2021). How Bad Are School Staffing Shortages? What We Learned by Asking Administrators. Education Week