KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to a newly-released survey, 51% of Missouri teachers who responded said they often consider quitting education.
"This year when you add together sometimes, often and very often, that number is 80%, and that surprised us and it should be concerning to everyone," Todd Fuller, spokesperson for the Missouri State Teachers Association, said.
The Missouri State Teachers Association issued the survey, knowing teachers are at a breaking point after what they've experienced in the last couple years with the pandemic. Some of the questions were different this year because of the added stresses.
The MSTA said they were surprised to find the number one stressor for teachers was student behavior and motivation.
"Teachers were finding that students have not experienced what it's like to be in a traditional classroom. Some students, never," Fuller said. "Others, for instance, middle school students who have now moved on to high school, it may have been a year to two years since they've been in a traditional classroom setting. So, teachers have found that there have been issues with behavior throughout this entire semester."
One survey respondent said education seems to come second to other concerns in the classroom that they are not trained for.
The Kansas City Teacher Residency, an agency that recruits and prepares teachers for the classroom, said a teacher's work is not just academic, "it has also integrated personal emotional work, work developing social calm and safety to learn," and that work causes fatigue.
KCTR offers free mental health care for teachers in their residency year and first year of teaching, and coaches regularly check in. The model is to provide support so teachers aren't "blindsided by the demands in their first year."
The MSTA said they expect the issues exposed in the survey will continue next semester as well.
Most of the teachers who took the survey said they are almost always stressed, however they also said their job is extremely meaningful.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword because there's the blessing of getting to help those kids but there's also this expectation that you do it for the kids, which is a really snide way of saying you need to give up yourself," Jason Roberts, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers Local 691, said.
Roberts was a teacher for 12 years in the Kansas City Public Schools and just resigned from his teaching position in June.
He says expectations continue to grow but nothing is coming off teachers' plates. He says paying teachers a better wage is a no-brainer, but money can't be the only solution.
"We need to start looking at - are we over-testing children? Are we putting too many demands on our teachers, are we controlling them too much? Are we taking away autonomy from the certified professional to make decisions on behalf of their classroom?" Roberts said. "We need to start looking at those demands and not be so naive to think that if we just give everybody a whole lot of money they'll stay because they'll be happy."
Substitute teacher shortages cuts into teachers' planning time because they're covering other classes. So, the cycle continues.
"We know that we're going to have a mass exodus of teachers at the end of this year who are either going to other states to teach or quitting the profession in general, which means we are going to have more vacancies next school year," Roberts said.
Fuller said in the past, when a teacher wanted to quit in the middle of the school year the district would threaten to take their teaching certification away. Teachers would then stop and reconsider. Fuller said now, that's not the case.
"What we've seen more than one time this fall are individuals saying, 'That's fine, take my certification, I'm finished with education.' That should scare all of us," Fuller said.
Teachers across the state are participating in a School Wellness Symposium in Columbia, where Fuller says they hope to come away with solutions.