Pandemic stressed teachers, worsening existing problems

Although it should have come as a surprise to absolutely no one, recent news that teachers are stressed and depressed no doubt has some people talking.

At the root of the discussion is a report from the CDC Foundation, a nonprofit that fosters collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

The foundation surveyed 643 teachers about their mental health in March 2021. In that survey, 27% of teachers self-reported symptoms of depression and 37% reported symptoms of anxiety.

From what we understand, this stemmed from added pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. Makes sense when you think about it. Teachers faced extreme pressure from parents and school administrators to keep children on track in a situation that no one was prepared for and that was not conducive to learning.

But, we believe in a quiet moment, many teachers will tell you all the pandemic did was exacerbate stresses that had been there for a while.

Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association, offers this prime example: Teachers are not only teachers, they often take on the role of parent and counselor. “Teachers do not just work bell-to-bell, and they do not get paid for this,” she said. “What they’re taking on is a lot more than what they are paid for.”

The solution, at least in part, seems obvious: Give teachers more money, either in performance bonuses or higher base salaries. The problem is, of course, where does this new money come from? Districts in Michigan — two-thirds of which report teacher shortages now — are already strapped for cash.

Bottom line: There are no easy answers. And with dozens of teacher and support personnel contracts coming due in the near future, including several in the Upper Peninsula, leadership and cooperation between the sides at the table will be paramount.


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