By Rachel Livinal, Art from Ashes Beat Writer
According to a poll from the National Education Survey, 90% of teachers said “feeling burned out is a serious problem.”
During the last two years, education has been constantly changing, but along with it, has been the expectation of teachers to change. Chris Callopy, the executive director of TALB (Teacher’s Association in Long Beach), said teachers mainly have had to watch their students constantly “reorient” themselves, and have been forced to adjust along with it.
However, this causes serious problems, as the climate in the last two years hasn’t been the most reliable or stable, which caused many teachers to feel uneasy mentally.
Erica Ortiz, a US history and ethnic studies teacher at Alliance Cindy & Bill Simon Technology High School located in Los Angeles, said the pandemic has been weighing on her from the start.
“It’s mentally physically, emotionally draining,” Ortiz. “This is what I’ve always wanted to be. And now that I’m in a position, it’s just more than what I expected, more responsibilities.”
Ortiz started teaching about a year and a half ago, being hired in the Fall of 2020.
“It’s student behavior,” Ortiz said. “It’s a lack of technology. The kids aren’t listening. Maybe it’s demands [by the admin] or maybe it’s just you realizing you don’t have enough patience.”
Callopy spoke about another problem: online learning.
“If you’re a veteran teacher… you might’ve missed the technological boom,” Callopy said.
He also said, “while you could just knock it out of the park in person,” teaching online was harder.
This increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Teachers started and still have been facing 12 hour work days because of the intense amount of workload.
Ortiz has been a part of various problems due to the pandemic. She has experienced numerous teachers moving to administrative positions at other schools, the principal who hired her quitting from expectations of the higher-ups and the tech assistant quitting. This has left her and the school at the beginning of the school year without enough teachers, computers, and staff.
Dr. Emily Hernandez, the director of EASE, a program that is used to connect professional counselors with educators, said all of this is in direct correlation to the pandemic. EASE is a specialized version of an employee assistance program according to Hernandez.
“Our bodies were made to deal with stress, even high levels of stress,” Hernandez said. “But the problem is that the body and the mind begin to break down, and I think the coping skills that we have to kind of navigate really stressful experiences weren’t really made for long-term. The problem with the pandemic was the longevity of it and at a certain point, it feels like people’s coping mechanisms just began to collapse.”
Although this burnout is quite common among teachers during the last several years, there are some solutions. According to the National Education Survey poll, some solutions that could help would be: raising educators’ salaries, providing more mental health student resources, and hiring more staff.
Callopy said that EASE is an especially good resource for educators in Long Beach. Teachers can access this program through the hotline, where they can receive counseling for any crisis at any time.
Hernandez said the program was developed 40 years ago as a private resource, where schools could sign up and pay for it. But this has changed recently.
Hernandez said, “We were able to apply for grant funding, and receive additional funds to expand the EASE program… Since I started, I think we only had like 40 member districts, or 41, and now we serve close to 100 districts and organizations.”
EASE now supports every district in Los Angeles county, early learning programs, some community colleges, and some charter schools. The hotline’s usage has overflowed in the last two years, having a 142% increase in 2021 compared to 2019.
Hernandez said they now cover over 170,000 employees, and the program continues to grow.
Ortiz’s organization, Alliance, is not one of the organizations to receive these services, but she remains positive.
“I’ve never thought about doing anything else,” Ortiz said. “Having those students have those moments of reflection, and really… feeling what I felt when I learned these things… because at the end of the day, if you’re gonna teach, you’re in it because you care about the kids.”
The EASE hotline is available through 1-800-882-1341. TALB can be reached online through talb.org or by calling their number at (562) 426-6433.