The Georgia Department of Education’s Teacher Burnout Task Force released a recent report describing classroom workforces as troubled by testing, time demands and unrealistic expectations. “The teachers I know don’t want to walk away — but too many of them are running on empty. In this report, you will hear the raw, insightful voices of classroom teachers from across the state. I encourage schools, districts, parents, and communities to listen to those voices and the actionable strategies and solutions they present,” said Cherie Goldman, 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year and chair of the task force.
The task force was born from a 2015 Georgia Department of Education survey of more than 53,000 teachers in which 66.9% said they were “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to encourage high school graduates to pursue teaching. Teachers shared their wide-range of experiences on the job. On the topic of testing, the common responses were: “The time taken out of instructional time to administer assessments causes precious teaching time to be cut short; therefore, students aren’t receiving the instruction they need.” On the subject of time, common responses were: “The workload is nearly impossible to tackle during the hours we are actually at the school. So many of us have to ‘volunteer’ our time simply to do what is required of us.”
Conditions were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the country’s push to “return to normal” meant unrealistic expectations that students should immediately return to pre-pandemic learning levels without giving them the time, support, resources, and compassion to meet students at their current academic level.
The task force highlighted several key concerns of those who participated. While high-stakes testing requirements have been reduced at the state level to be more in line with federal testing requirements, the number of district-level tests has increased. The task force recommends the state, local school districts, and school leaders work collaboratively to evaluate, take inventory, reduce tests and preserve instructional time. Teachers’ planning and instructional time needs to be treated as sacred in order for recovery from the pandemic to be successful and effective going forward. Citing the push of society to “return to normal,” the task force recommends giving teachers the time, support, resources, and compassion to meet their students where they are – also recommending that the state, local school districts, and school leaders should work collaboratively to reimagine an educational system that engages teacher voice and treats teachers as professionals. Likewise, for the purpose of addressing teachers’ mental health and well being: the task force recommends that the state, local school districts, and school leaders should work collaboratively to provide a stable and supportive environment where teachers and morale are valued.