By Joe DiBenedetto, Managing Director
The Great Resignation, a term coined during the seemingly never-ending coronavirus pandemic, is a mass movement of people quitting their jobs, impacting labor sectors across the United States. It’s a moment in time when it feels as though everyone is changing everything they’ve known.
It can be argued that during this pandemic, the field of education has been one of the most disrupted industries, with teachers facing higher levels of stress, longer hours, and vulnerable work environments over the past two years. Providing public relations and marketing support to schools across the country, Lambert & Co. has seen firsthand how the teacher shortage is weighing on school districts and education leaders.
In March 2021, a year into the pandemic, more than half of teachers in the United States were considering leaving the profession. With many of the same obstacles still in place, it’s hard to imagine that number has decreased over the past year. Yet, the wave of resignations from the teaching profession isn’t new. In fact, it has been happening for years. Just look at the U.S. Department of Education’s findings on the teaching profession after surveying around 5,800 public school teachers and 1,200 private school teachers after the 2012-13 academic school year and you’ll see warning signs of dissatisfaction. The survey reported that nearly 10% of public-school teachers had left the profession.
In that same survey, 53% of those who left the teaching field reported that their general work conditions, like salary, environment, and workload, were better since switching careers. What are we doing? Given the impact teachers have on our children and the future of our communities (and country), why aren’t we investing more in them? Why don’t we understand that teachers are perennially undervalued?
These days, teachers are not just attending to educational needs, they’re serving as mentors, counselors, and offering whatever support they can to help the students in front of them. They address trauma-related issues and provide social-emotional support for those who need it. As we continue to ask more of them, shouldn’t we do more to support them?
Teaching is not a desirable position—and it hasn’t been for years. Unfortunately, the blame for failing to keep teachers on staff often falls on local school district leaders, when the fact is their hands are tied. This is not a problem affecting one or two school districts, this is a nationwide issue with lasting effects with repercussions for all schools and communities.
If it sounds naïve to say that we need to set aside our political differences to address this issue, well then, call me naïve, because that’s the only way we’re going to make the changes required to put top professionals at the head of each classroom. Whether it’s increasing salaries, allowing teachers more freedom in terms of how and what they teach, or any combination of solutions, let’s be sincere about putting the best interests of our children first. That means providing them with access to highly qualified educators who will inspire them to dream and to achieve.
No one can learn from a teacher who isn’t there. We need our teachers—desperately. The time to start investing in them is now. Let’s make teaching the most desirable profession in the United States and we will surely see the benefits resonate in every other profession.
Need help developing a communication strategy to address the employment shifts in your school or district? Learn more about Lambert’s Education and Social Impact practice and our capabilities, or connect with us here.