Log Out or Burn Out?

Caspar Dowdy, Views Editor

There’s a lot to worry about with online school. Staying up to date on classwork, attending Zoom meetings, keeping a consistent schedule — without mentioning COVID itself.

And, at the center of it all, are teachers.

K-12 teachers are the most likely of all public sector workers to feel stressed, anxious and burnt out during the pandemic, according to the National Education Association.

As Edwardsville has shifted into remote learning, many students and staff have seen these issues amplify.

“While many of us feel overwhelmed by the shift back to remote learning, what is most difficult for me is seeing how my students are struggling emotionally,” English department chair Heather Haskins said. “I can see on their faces the lethargy, lack of excitement, and lack of conversation with each other that is present in a physical setting.”

Haskins said she was “not sure” if staff had been given enough support during the pandemic.

In an effort to combat these issues, District 7 has offered a day away from remote learning. An email released Jan. 7 announced that the district would be closed on Friday, Jan. 14 to protect the health of its staff.

“All District #7 buildings and offices will be closed to allow our employees, who have been presented with an overwhelming amount of additional responsibility, a day to rest and recharge,” the email reads. “We understand the stress they have been under and need to recognize that to prevent further burn out.”

This move comes at an important time for teachers. Nationwide, staff shortages have impacted school districts — leaving extra responsibilities for the teachers who remain.

A survey of NEA members showed that 32% of teachers plan to leave their profession earlier than they had once expected. This comes alongside the fact that teachers are more likely than any other profession to suffer from job-related stress and depression, according to the RAND corporation.

“This was the case before the COVID-19 pandemic and is even more apparent in 2021 as the nation’s students return to in-person learning,” senior NEA writer Tim Walker wrote just before the 2021-22 school year began.

The district’s decision to offer teachers this short break serves not only to relieve stress but to preserve ECUSD7’s teaching staff.

To many, initiatives like Friday’s off day still aren’t enough to prevent burnout.

“While I initially appreciated the Friday off, I later discovered that this was a day we would have to make up at the end of the year, so at that point it felt really less like an appreciation and more like a mitigation,” Haskins said.