Teaching Profession Under Stress


Jared Hyler substituting for Hannah Nandor’s Honors Chemistry class. Photo by Jackie Ozanich

Jackie Ozanich, Managing Editor

  The majority of teachers can agree that the 2021-22 school year has been the hardest and most stressful school year of their career. Teachers cite reasons such as low pay, attacks on educators by the state legislature, not enough support, the teacher shortage, and most of all the overload of stress.

     Teachers are switching careers at a rapidly growing rate, as they face many problems that wouldn’t be faced elsewhere. In a Battle High School survey with 19 respondents, only 57.7% of teachers selected no, they are not leaving the career, without qualifications. 100% of them selected yes to feeling stressed as a teacher.

     With all the stress and other problems teachers are facing this school year, the infamous low wages aren’t helping. According to the National Education Association (NEA) around 80% of public school teachers are underpaid. Unfortunately, it only seems to be getting worse. Beginning teacher salaries have decreased 2.91% since 2018 (after adjusting for inflation). To put these numbers in perspective, the average American wage index is $55,628.60 according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), compared to the average teacher salary in MO, which is $43,905. To be fair, though, MO is ranked #50 in the nation for starting salaries for new teachers. 

      To make ends meet, many teachers pick up second or third jobs. According to the NEA, 20% of teachers have a second job. 

     “I became a business owner this year, alongside teaching, and I will have to see where that goes in the next 3 years,” Sheri Parker, art teacher, said. 

     The biggest obstacle teachers face, though, is stress. 60% of teachers reported they were stressed out, according to Forbes. Reports from Glassdoor state that being a teacher is one of the 20 most stressful jobs, and they get paid around five times less than a surgeon, which is also listed among the most stressful jobs. 

     The stress stems from several factors, including but not limited to lack of support, dealing with parents, and with students being just outright disrespectful to teachers.

     “Students have a total lack of self-regulation with their phones and are not willing to work hard. Cell phones are a major issue. A general feeling of apathy on the part of the students [is what is making this year so stressful],” Susie Adams, APUSH and World History teacher, explained.

     Many teachers recognize it’s not always the student’s goal to be disrespectful or shut down, but that this is the result of remote learning during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

     “Many, many students started this school year insufficiently prepared for the academic demands of their current high-school math placement AND lacking years of opportunities to practice and learn self-discipline and hard work. Because of remote learning, many students cultivated bad habits that spilled over into this school year. For me to teach a student Algebra II, they certainly have to know Algebra I — but they also have to be prepared to engage, to make mistakes, to think critically, and to try, try again. This year, far too many students shut down when confronted with challenges and never allowed themselves to practice enough to eventually overcome obstacles,” Jacob Roth, Algebra I and II teacher, commented. 

      Another reason teachers are looking for different career paths is because of perceived lack of support from parents and administrators. 

     Alex Miller, forensics teacher, said: “What’s making this year so stressful is lack of clear support and direction from all levels of administration and central office.”

      These problems lead to more problems, as substitute teachers become harder to obtain, creating a never ending cycle of burnout for educators.

     “[There were] no substitutes at all and none that want to sub in my room. It creates a lot of stress when I need to take sick days or personal days and I always feel the need to check in,” Shelby Dorfman, Special Education (SWIN) teacher, said. 

      A large number of people believe the majority of these problems have risen due to the lockdowns caused by COVID-19 and the resurrection of in-person schooling.

     “It’s my first full year as a teacher, plus the majority of the year we were dealing with Covid-19 concerns! So managing students, myself, and trying to be content with unpredictability turned out to be stressful,” Josh Wedemeyer, government teacher, commented.

      Others believe the root of the problems have long been growing, even before COVID-19 hit.

     Myles Freborg, French teacher at Hickman, said, “First off, I really enjoy teaching, and I struggle to think of a profession that I would rather practice. That said, teaching is inherently stressful–even during a normal year–as teachers are expected to function (and, hopefully, thrive) in a set of circumstances that lie largely beyond our control. While many teachers attribute this year’s difficulties (learning loss, social development, executive functioning skills, and collective trauma…) to the pandemic, all of these challenges long predate it.”

     Many want to prevent this shortage and help teachers in any way possible, naturally, and luckily, there are many ways to do so. Some teachers have strong ideas on how to improve the current state of education.

     “In order to make things better, we need to innovate: find ways to alleviate teacher workloads, improve the experiences for our community, and truly do what is best for our population regardless of what the other buildings are doing. This will never happen because we are all comfortable passing students along and handing out diplomas at a rate sufficient enough to not draw the attention of the state,” a teacher who would like to remain anonymous said.

     One main way as students to help teachers is remembering to respect teachers’ time and the teacher themselves in general. 

      “What could really help lessen my stress load is less phone usage. I know it’s the easy ‘basic response’ but the amount of times phones were an issue in class was much higher than any other issue I had,” Wedemeyer said. 

     Administrators can help by making plans and directions clear and concise, as well as listening to teachers and trying to understand what they’re going through.

     “What would help lessen my stress load as a teacher is administration developing clear expectations, and actually being consistent with how they apply it,” Miller commented.

     Parents can help, too, by supporting teachers and by taking responsibility for their child’s actions.

     Sheri Parker stated, “If both parents and students took responsibility for their/student’s actions by checking grades, attendance, and staying on top of work.  If students were more proactive, and if I didn’t feel like I was working harder than my students to get them caught up if they were absent or weren’t paying attention, that would help decrease my stress load as a teacher.”

     As a community as a whole, though, we need to come together and support each other, including teachers, administrators, and students. 

     “More support for teachers would help me feel that it’s not us (teachers) versus other groups like politicians or community members. Knowing we have full community support would go a long way,” Patrick McGuire, 11th grade U.S. History and APUSH teacher, said. 

     Overall, everyone needs to appreciate and prioritize education again, specifically by showing support and appreciation to the educators who work hard every day to make the world a better place.