You are currently viewing The teachers leave in the middle of the year.  It leaves some schools in the lurch

The teachers leave in the middle of the year. It leaves some schools in the lurch

Olathe School District, the second largest in Kansas, is on course to break a record this year. But it’s not the one that makes the district proud or happy.

“We have seen a record number of teachers wanting to be released from their contract during the school year,” said Cathy Donovan, director of elementary human resources for the school system. To date, that number has reached 44. A few years ago, Donovan says, mid-year departures of even five teachers would have been high in this district, which employs 2,700 teachers. Mid-year teacher quits could also increase in other places.

“Before, it was something no one would ever consider doing,” said Daphne Gomez, a former teacher who left the classroom in 2017 for a consulting job at a Fortune 500 company before launching the consultancy firm Teacher Career Coach, which offers professional advice to teachers considering leaving the profession. Considering Gomez’s more than 67,000 Instagram followers, it’s clear that teachers are looking for solutions and, in some cases, a way out of the profession.

It is too early for conclusive data on the number of K-12 teachers who will resign from their positions in the 2021-2022 school year.

But mounting evidence suggests that pandemic-related burnout could be driving teachers’ mid-year resignations, not just from their current teaching jobs, but from the profession as a whole. .

Here’s what we know so far.

Teachers leaving the profession break with stereotypes

It is now clear that the pandemic has exacerbated stress and burnout among many professionals, including teachers.

The National Education Association released a nationwide survey of teachers in February in which 55% said the pandemic was causing them to plan to leave the profession sooner than they had originally expected. Unlike years past, teachers acting on their frustration are not just those new to the profession and feeling overwhelmed. Nor are they necessarily veterans who have taught for decades and are about to retire.

Gomez says the majority of teachers she sees expressing an interest in leaving the profession have between two and 15 years of teaching experience. Teachers choosing to leave mid-year even include award-winning educators seemingly at the height of their careers.

Jake Miller has taught at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania since 2008. He received the Pennsylvania National History Day Teacher of the Year Award in 2016. A year later, he was chosen as a global member of the National Education Association in China. His last day of work was March 1.

Several factors prompted Miller to resign mid-year.

Since the start of the school year, he had covered more than 90 lessons for absent teachers, leaving him with even less time in an already busy day to fulfill his teaching responsibilities. He said he was spending more than 15 overtime hours a week outside of the working day at his job. He also said the job was more like babysitting than teaching. Since returning to full-time in-person learning last fall, he has spent time and energy constantly reminding his students to wear their masks, turn in their homework, and behave appropriately in class.

Miller said it was also demoralizing to see public support for educators drop.
“We [the public] don’t trust the systems anymore,” he said, referring specifically to public education. “We can’t win at the moment.”

The current labor market makes it easier to leave

The dynamics of the labor market make the time ideal for teachers who want to try jobs in other industries. In November, 4.5 million workers across the country quit, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics..

“It’s an employee market,” said Amber Clayton, director of the knowledge center at the Society for Human Resource Management. “With teachers’ transferable skills, I imagine many employers are looking to teachers to fill those gaps.”

After seriously embarking on a job search in October, Miller landed a consulting position with a global professional services firm, where he says he will get an immediate 50% pay raise, a longer work schedule flexible and the possibility of working more with adults.

Traditional barriers to mid-year quits may not apply this year

While education experts talk about the “taboo” of mid-year quits, they also acknowledge that tired teachers seem more likely than ever to dismiss the factors that kept them from quitting before the end of the school year.

“If they leave school, they don’t care if they get fined or have their license revoked,” Donovan said, referring to the penalties typically applied to teachers who don’t live up to their contracts.

Besides the penalties teachers may face for breaking their contracts during the year, those who suffer the most may be the students they leave behind.

Education researchers Christopher Redding of the University of Florida and Gary Henry of Vanderbilt University studied the effects on students and school communities when teachers quit. Their research found that when teachers leave mid-year, the learning loss for their students can range from 32 to 72 teaching days. The factors most often responsible for this associated learning loss, according to their research, include classroom disruption, school instability, and less qualified substitute teachers.

Talk to teachers before they feel the need to leave

Effective teachers know that their students thrive on the comfort of routines and stability developed over the school year. And usually, they care deeply about the success of their students. Thus, when these teachers are forced to leave in the middle of the year, they may feel that they are no longer able to be effective in their profession.

SHRM’s Clayton urges employers to proactively understand the “whys” behind these feelings, especially those that are holding back their most valued teachers.

She points to the “stay talk”, in which employers have conversations with individual employees they value to find out how they view their work – what they value and what they think could be improved – as a important tool to use.

But the stay interview is a tool which, to be effective, must be used regularly; ideally, well before the best teachers consider resigning mid-year.

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