By: Andrea Thomas Brandley
Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.
On the morning of March 12th, 2020, I sat in an elementary school gymnasium running microphones for my students’ musical production of The Jungle Book. We had 200+ students assembled, sitting on the floor in tight, neat rows staring up at another 60+ students onstage. This was our third performance, with the fourth and final scheduled for 6:00 p.m. that night. Only a few hours later, I was told the final performance would be cancelled, which we announced to a disappointed group of third graders. The following day we were sent home from school with no indication of when we’d be back.
The COVID-19 pandemic turned many organizations, systems, and industries on their head. K–12 education was no exception. Through the sudden switch to remote learning and subsequent hybrid learning, teachers were expected to quickly adapt to an unfamiliar and highly technical teaching environment while simultaneously guiding the adjustment of their anxious students. To understate it, it was a lot.
Even before this major transition many teachers were already feeling overwhelmed and overworked. In a 2017 survey of Utah teachers, more than half of teachers who left the profession indicated emotional exhaustion, stress, and burnout were extremely influential in their decision to leave.[i] Many worr