With two-thirds of American teachers feeling “burned out” and many Black teachers planning on not returning to their classrooms, it’s no surprise that a lot of questions linger on what the upcoming school year will look like across metro Detroit and the nation.
However, it’s not all gloom and doom.
In comparison to the 2021-22 school year, a lot of teachers are feeling less stressed about the new year this Fall – even parents are a lot more confident than teachers, according to Zenger News.
That’s according to a new survey of 2,000 Americans, 1,000 of whom work as K-12 teachers and 1,000 who are parents to school-age children, which found 44 percent of teachers and 55 percent of parents reported feeling less anxious about the upcoming 2022-2023 school year than they did last year.
Fifty-seven percent of parents also reported that their kids seem less anxious, too. But parents still want to be involved – 49 percent of parents say they’re going to talk more with their kids about what they want to feel more prepared for in the classroom this year.
On the other hand, teachers were almost twice as likely to say they’re at the same anxiety level, neither more nor less anxious than last year compared to how parents see their kids (41 percent vs 26 percent).
Danielle Archie, a new principal at Detroit Enterprise Academy (DEA), a National Heritage Academy school authorized by Grand Valley State University, told the Michigan Chronicle that as a longtime educator she notices the shift, too.
“[For] teachers, I feel at this point last year, was the hardest transition for us,” she said, adding that from shutting down schools, toggling among virtual, hybrid and in-person to battling rising COVID cases, it’s been a huge toll on many educators. “I think [it was] a mental transition for our teachers and this year I feel that they’re more prepared.”
Archie added that stepping into her new role as principal at the local charter school is one where she is more than ready to set the tone for the upcoming school year.
“For me, it’s basically … a steep learning curve,” she said of transitioning into her new role. “At this present time with all the different nuances, with COVID in particular, we are transitioning back to a more normal way of living.”
Archie said that the hardest part of the upcoming school semester is finding the “perfect balance” for where society is headed with constantly changing COVID-related regulations. “We still want to create a balance of safety — that for me has been the highest part …while still keeping my staff and students safe.”
Archie added that her staff has been back already in preparation of students arriving on Tuesday, September 6, especially so teachers, staff and students can be at the top of their game.
While reviewing findings from RAND Corporation’s latest State of the American Teacher and State of the American Principal surveys, Elizabeth Steiner was surprised that “little has changed in terms of how teachers report indicators of their well-being in January 2021 compared to January of 2022.”
Since March 2020, between 25 percent to nearly 50 percent of teachers and principals have reported that they are considering leaving their jobs within the next year, according to the report.
Though Black teachers often work in high-poverty schools or are placed in “challenging communities where they are absolutely needed,” those environments also need more empathy and patience, said Dr. Fedrick Ingram, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, in a Word in Black report.
“They find themselves being the people who are culturally relevant in those spaces, a lot of times,” Ingram said. “Then they take on the onus of ensuring that we have equity in our schools with our Black students and white students and Hispanic students and Asian students, for that matter.”
The most commonly cited concern among teachers remains, however – 24 percent – still worry about delayed academic progress among their students, making it one of the top-ranked challenges for two years in a row.
Dr. Carmen Kennedy-Rogers, who serves as the senior program officer of K-12 Education for The Skillman Foundation, told the Michigan Chronicle that leading the Foundation’s efforts to improve educational opportunities in Detroit is to help educators find their footing, especially for next year.
“We have partners – we work throughout the community [with people] who work with educators who are within the schools,” she said, adding that the Foundation began a wellness work focusing on principals, whom she described as “one of the strongest units of change” and “change agents” because it starts at the top.
“They’re responsible for instruction, school, climate and culture,” she said, adding that working particularly with organizations that cater to Black education leaders is key – and the Foundation helps bolster these entities.
“We started to think about what could be contributed to the wellness of principals,” Kennedy-Rogers said, citing Dr. Curtis Lewis and Dr. Rema Vassar of the Black Male Educators Alliance, which helped spearhead an 11-month experience through the 2021 Principal Wellness Professional Learning Community.
“Relationships have to continue to be the cornerstone of what we’re doing,” she said, adding that racial injustice is still rampant and oppression ever-present in teachers and other educational professional minorities.
“Part of wellness and wellbeing is unlearning so much and honoring the footsteps and journey of our ancestors,” she said.
Lakia M. Wilson, executive vice president of Detroit Federation of Teachers, told the Michigan Chronicle that she is looking forward to the upcoming school year and what it means for a new crop of students and teachers hopeful for something better.
“I’m excited about some programming that will be coming into our career and technical centers. I’m also excited about a book drive that we started in the summer and we’re going to complete this fall – we’re going to give away 30,000 books to the community at no cost,” the long-time education professional said. “I’m just excited about the second year of stability– not having so many interruptions due to COVID – of course, we pray our numbers of infection rates do not skyrocket to cause us to go back home. Because we know our children need to be in those seats. We will keep [safety] paramount.”
Zenger News and Word in Black contributed to this report.