By April Clark Honaker
According to a survey completed by the National Education Association this year, 55 percent of teachers are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.
This is almost double compared to July 2020. Teachers are struggling. The weight of curriculum changes, COVID-19 precautions, unexpected expenses, increasing instructional minutes, and the threat of violence are driving some teachers to head for the door.
Despite the reasons to leave, Morgan Preaus has stayed.
Preaus, who was chosen Teacher of the Year at Glenview Elementary for 2021-2022, has been teaching for seven years. She said it’s the students that keep her coming back.
“If you stop and listen to what they have to say, they’ll surprise you, and they love with all their hearts,” she said. “They are quick to give compliments and do and say the sweetest things.
“It’s very hard to beat that feeling. You feel special just by being there.”
At the same time, Preaus acknowledged the pressure can be too much for some.
“We’re held to standards that some teachers feel are unmanageable,” she said. “We sometimes feel we don’t have anything left to give to our own families when we go home.”
Much has changed since Preaus started teaching. She cited increasing demands on teachers as the biggest challenge. The number of instructional minutes has grown so that she and her peers are literally working morning bell to end bell.
But Preaus remains positive.
“We make the best of it, and we make the curriculum we do have as enjoyable and exciting as possible,” she said.
Over the last two years, COVID-19 has brought many unexpected changes as well.
“It’s taken away a lot of the fun in the classroom,” she said. “In a way, it’s taken away the sense of community.”
For most of this time, students were not allowed to explore the classroom with the same freedom they had before the pandemic. They were restricted to small groups, and their classroom rugs and circle time were eliminated. When they were allowed to have their rugs back last year, the kids were so happy.
“Their eyes just lit up,” Preaus said.
Speaking of COVID, Preaus said, “It’s definitely been a hindrance in the classroom, but we’re not gonna let it stop our love for being in the classroom.”
In light of the pandemic and recent school shootings, Preaus said she says a prayer every morning for protection for herself, her students, her peers, and everyone at her school. She chooses not to focus on the negative.
“I mentally cannot go there,” she said.
For Preaus, the key to avoiding burnout in these challenging times is “finding the joy in the day-to-day events.”
Preaus’s favorite thing about teaching is watching the students take risks and watching those risks pay off.
“It makes you feel all warm and cozy inside,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling for sure.”
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