Teachers are picking up slack for absent colleagues. They're covering for unfilled positions. And 55% of them say they will leave teaching sooner than they had originally planned, according to a poll of its members by the nation's largest teachers union.
The National Education Association poll, conducted in January, helps quantify the stress being placed on educators right now. It found that the number who say they'll leave the profession sooner has risen significantly since August. Among the NEA poll's other findings:
- 90% of its members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem.
- 86% say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic.
- 80% report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for those left.
"Last summer, I started traveling across the country," says Becky Pringle, president of the NEA, which has nearly 3 million members, talking about the impetus for the survey. "Without exception, every stop I made, from Kentucky to Oakland, I heard those similar stories of educators who were exhausted, overwhelmed, feeling unloved, disrespected."
The poll found a racial gap in discontent: 62% of Black teachers and 59% of Hispanic teachers say they will leave earlier than planned, compared with 55% overall. But the desire to leave the profession was at similar levels for rookies, midcareer educators and those closer to retirement.
"Our morning emails every day start with the vacancies that have been unfilled," says Amber McCoy, an NEA member who teaches fourth grade in Huntington, W.Va. "[It] will tell us where we have staffing shortages in the building and [ask] us to step in in any way or any time that we can."