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Teaching has always been a stressful job, and now a new survey suggests the pandemic could be driving even more teachers from the time-honored profession.
"Teacher stress was a concern prior to the pandemic and may have only become worse," said study author Elizabeth Steiner, a policy researcher at RAND Corp. "This raises the concern that more teachers may decide to quit this year than in past years if nothing is done to address challenging working conditions and support teacher well-being."
Her team found that nearly 1 in 4 public school teachers may leave their job by the end of the 2020-21 school year, compared with 1 in 6 who were likely to leave prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Black teachers were particularly likely to consider leaving, the survey conducted in January and February 2021 revealed.
It also found that teaching respondents were nearly two times more likely to say they had frequent job-related stress and nearly three times more likely to report symptoms of depression, compared with working adults in the general population.
The findings suggest potential immediate and long-term threats to the teacher supply in the United States, according to the researchers.
"This raises the concern that more teachers may decide to quit this year than in past years if nothing is done to address challenging working conditions and support teacher well-being," Steiner said in a RAND news release.
Sources of job stress cited by teachers included: mismatch between actual and preferred mode of instruction; lack of administrator and technical support; frequent technical issues with remote learning; and lack of implementation of COVID-19 safety measures.
The survey also found that about one-third of teachers had to care for and provide learning support to their own children while teaching.
"Given that some pandemic-era stressors, such as remote teaching, might be here to stay, we think district and school leaders can support teachers' well-being by understanding current working conditions and their need for a more supportive and flexible work environment," said report co-author Ashley Woo, an assistant policy researcher at RAND.
Helping teachers get child care for their own children could go a long way toward easing stress and improving teacher retention, the investigators added, as would developing clear policies for remote teaching and adopting technology standards for remote teaching equipment.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on stress.
SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, June 15, 2021
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