OPINION: Teacher burnout needs to be fixed

In order to fill vacant teacher positions, teacher burnout needs to be resolved. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

More than three-quarters of U.S. states are suffering from a teacher shortage, according to a Feb. 11 article by ABC News.  Hillsborough County, in particular, has over 500 vacant teaching positions, according to Hillsborough County’s vacant job list.

The teacher shortage can partially be blamed for the burnout teachers feel. This issue can be resolved by scheduling more teacher planning time and raising teacher salaries to spark more interest when recruiting teachers.

In the U.S., 44% of K-12 teachers said they feel burned out, according to Gallup’s Feb. 2022 poll. The poll asked employees from a wide variety of teaching specialties how often they felt that way.  

Out of all of the fields, K-12 teachers felt the most burned out. This could be discouraging to education majors. 

With more than 2,200 education majors at the USF Tampa campus, according to the College of Education, teacher burnout will be something they face going into their careers unless change happens. 

Many teachers want to do their job well but are unable to do so under the harsh demands of it.

“I have had multiple nervous breakdowns because I can’t meet the demands of the job,” a local Hillsborough County teacher stated during a Dec. 13 school board meeting.

“How do I give my kids the attention that they deserve, the quality education they deserve, the feedback they deserve when more demands are coming, and there’s not enough time to meet them?”

Teachers are not able to provide quality education if they cannot keep up with the workload.

The Hillsborough County school system states that a work day consists of eight paid hours, according to their contract.

Yet, even though teachers have planning periods, many teachers work beyond the eight hours.  

“The band director of my school, who has a concert this week, has covered every day since last Monday during his planning period, and has no time to get ready for his concert tonight — which is why he’s not here,” Austin Maheu, a music teacher at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview stated during a Dec. 13 school board meeting.  

The Fair Labor Standard Act ensures employees receive overtime pay if they work over 40 hours a week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Teachers are exempt from getting paid for extra hours worked.

Even though teachers already have planning periods, scheduling larger blocks of planning time could allow teachers the appropriate time they need to do their job efficiently.

“Right now, teachers are not just teachers. They are therapists. They are being parents. And right now, they are being shortchanged. They are underpaid and overworked,” said State Rep. Jervonte Edmonds in a Feb. 1 article from West Palm beach. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently increased teacher pay from $40,000 to an average of $48,000 according to a Jan 23 news release. Yet, Edmonds said he does not think it is enough.

On Jan. 19, Edmonds proposed his “Save the Teachers Act” that would raise teachers’ salaries to a minimum of $65,000.

With the increase in teacher salary, more people would be interested in pursuing a teaching career and filling some of these vacancies.

USF’s teachingprogram is helping fight the vacant Hillsborough County teaching jobs.  

Helios STEM Middle School is collaborating with USF to provide university students early training. The students complete 1,200 hours of training in three different grade levels at three different middle schools, allowing them to find their passion for teaching, according to a 2022 WUSF article.

Although training the next generation of teachers is an important step, there is still more that needs to be done. Resolving current issues in the education field, like the lack of planning time and fair compensation, could encourage more individuals to fill vacant teacher roles and keep current teachers from leaving the profession.

Since K-12 students spend the majority of their day at school, it is important to ensure that their leaders are well taken care of. Yet, if teachers continue to be burned out, education will continue to deplete.