Educators are stressed and overwhelmed by teaching this year, with nearly one-third of teachers saying they're considering leaving the profession.
That's according to a new survey of members of Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union. More than 9,700 teachers and educators in the state completed the online survey between Sept. 23 and Oct. 5.
“Educators are saying they’re stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated and worried about their mental health,” Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said in a news release. “Nearly 30% say they’re thinking about quitting or retiring."
"There’s already a teacher shortage in Minnesota," Specht added. "Our public schools won’t function if thousands of educators burn out and leave. It’s time to adjust.”
According to Education Minnesota, citing Teachers Retirement Association of Minnesota data, applications for retirement benefits increased by 35% in August and September of this year compared to the same time last year.
The majority of teachers who were surveyed say they're feeling stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated about their work as an educator, regardless of if they're teaching in-person, online or a combination of the two. And few teachers are reporting feeling inspired and happy about their work this school year.
Education Minnesota says many factors influence a teacher's job satisfaction, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been a "driving force" behind educator anxiety, noting many teachers are having to write lessons for subjects and grades they have never taught before.
The majority of educators who responded to the survey are working in the hybrid model (5,564 people), doing both in-person and distance learning (not at the same time). Meanwhile, 1,911 teachers doing in-person learning, 1,810 distance-learning teachers, and 402 multimodal learning teachers filled out the survey.
Multimodal learning teachers – where they're simultaneously providing lessons to students online while teaching in-person to students in their classroom – reported the highest concern for their current workload, with 59% saying their workload is "very much a concern" for them.
This has Specht asking districts to "generally abandon plans that ask a single teacher to manage half a class online and a half in-person at the same time."
"That arrangement may have seemed like a good idea in August, but it’s not working in October and it may drive out hundreds of teachers by May," she said.
Meanwhile, 52% of teachers doing hybrid learning reported they're workload is "very much a concern." Forty-one percent of distance learning and 37% of in-person learning teachers said the same.
Overall, teachers doing in-person learning are still feeling stressed and frustrated, but less so than teachers doing the other forms of learning methods. That being said, in-person teachers say they feel less physically safe than teachers who are distance learning.
“The goal remains to safely reopen school buildings and resume in-person learning, but this pandemic has taught everyone to be flexible,” Specht said. “This isn’t the time for finger-pointing, but it is time to adapt."
Specht said in addition to abandoning the multimodal learning model, districts "need to remove all unnecessary tasks from educators’ plates" and "open negotiations on building-specific issues."