Survey: 22% of Tennessee teachers say they're ready to leave education

Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 19:16:57-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For months, we've been hearing from school districts telling us it's getting harder and harder to keep teachers on staff. There's a new survey that may show us why that's happening.

The Professional Educators of Tennessee do an annual survey of teachers, and for years, the number one complaint they hear about is usually student discipline. But this year, for the first time, low teacher morale was the number one reason why some educators are eyeing the exits. "There’s less and less control, but more and more responsibility," said Bethany Bowman, director of professional development for Professional Educators of Tennessee.

As a former teacher, Bowman is concerned that a staffing crisis in schools is about to get a lot worse. "That is very concerning to all of us and should be concerning to all stakeholders," she said.

In the survey, 22% of teachers said they are unlikely or very unlikely to stay in public education. "The number one [reason] is teacher morale. Eighty-three percent of our educators are concerned with educator or teacher morale. It’s heart-wrenching it's energy-draining and they’re not supported," said Bowman.

Bowman thinks it's a combination of pandemic pressures, along with longstanding issues like overly rigorous evaluations. "It’s just not healthy mentally for a teacher to stay in the field. So they’ve got to take the pressure off and you’ve got to treat teachers as professionals. They’ve been to school, they have been trained, they know what to do, they don’t need to be watched under a microscope for every little step they take, every little move they make," she said.

She believes that may be coaxing experienced teachers to leave and stopping new teachers from joining their ranks. "Hardly anybody I know that has been a teacher, recommends to their children to become an educator. And until that changes, there’s always going to be a teacher shortage," said Bowman.

Here is a sample of some of the comments left by teachers, explaining why they think morale is low. The names of the teachers and which districts they work in are being kept confidential.

"The biggest challenge in education is student behavior, exasperated by large class sizes which causes teacher morale to be low, creates time management problems and makes it difficult to solve diverse student needs."

"Support isn’t a blue jean day. It’s giving them the time they need to work on the assigned tasks without sacrificing their own families."

"I feel underpaid and overworked. I spend extra money and time trying to provide a decent education to my students."

"I regularly look for jobs outside of the teaching profession. I have had enough. My administrators are not supportive and I am tired of being told that my job is really to be a facilitator or a moderator."

Click here to download a full list of the submitted comments to the survey