- To improve teacher morale and prevent burnout, the Baldwin and Talladega County school districts in Alabama allowed educators to choose whether they wanted to teach in-person or remote, rather than requiring both — and district leaders say the results show the decision was the right one, AL.com reports.
- However, most teachers in the rest of the state reportedly didn't have this option and were required to juggle both learning formats. Mid-year retirements in the state have seen notable increases, and national data suggests high rates of teacher burnout, as well as higher rates of resignations for districts that offer both remote and in-person learning.
- Talladega County Schools was able to expand its existing, pre-pandemic distance learning structures, which included a stand-alone remote learning school, using $700,000 of the district’s $1.8 million in federal CARES Act funding to upgrade infrastructure for Beacon Virtual Academy and provide stipends for professional development on remote teaching. Likewise, Baldwin County Schools expanded its virtual option to elementary students and made necessary adjustments to hiring.
In a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures and distance learning, teacher burnout is a growing concern among administrators. In November, an EdWeek Research Center survey showed nearly 75% of teachers reporting lower morale than pre-pandemic, and 85% said overall teacher morale had dropped since the previous year. In March 2020, only 63% reported lower overall morale. Additionally, 42% of teachers reported feeling less motivated at work.
A National Education Association poll in August also found 28% of teachers planned on leaving the profession or retiring due to pressure from COVID-19. The percentage of educators planning an exit also varied significantly by years of experience: 20% of those with less than 10 years experience, 40% with 21-30 years of experience and 55% of those with more than 30 years experience reported planning to leave the profession or retire. Furthermore, in an Illinois Education Association poll, 75% said the workload has increased “somewhat” or “much.”
Part of the problem is the routine educators have known throughout their careers is gone. Creating new schedules can help them feel more in control of their time, and building in periods for self-care — such as breaks, lunch and exercise — is also critical.
Providing plenty of flexible professional development opportunities has also been invaluable in helping teachers adjust. Remote learning requires different skill sets and approaches than teaching in front of a classroom, and most teachers — or their students — weren't trained for or accustomed to the model when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to transition practically overnight in spring 2020.
In that context, juggling both remote and in-person learning as schools reopen can be especially stressful. Describing her experiences and the level of anxiety with taking on both models simultaneously, one teacher anonymously wrote to AL.com, "I went in the closet so they wouldn’t hear me cry."