WFHS teachers experience the stress of the pandemic


Brooklyn Anderson, Staff Writer

        Around the country, and even on a global scale, schools and districts have been struggling with staffing shortages and educator burnout. These issues have been festering for more than a decade, but have been pushed into light amid the COVID-19 pandemic. From bus drivers to para-professionals to teachers of all subjects and grade levels, the past two years have hit the education system especially hard. Between basic behavior management, mental health concerns, violence, and heavy workloads, teachers are being driven away from the profession at an alarming rate.  

        The pandemic interrupted normal learning for students and educators in early 2020. Lockdowns sent education remote, impeding a critical developmental time for children and teens, as well as changing the job description for teachers and staff. Jessica Jackson, a member of the West Fargo School Board, talked about what she has observed. “The pandemic has been difficult for many parties, including parents, caregivers, teachers, staff, and administration.” Jackson said.  

        Following the break from the structure in-person learning generally enforces, behavioral problems have been a large issue in classrooms, from elementary to high school. Vandalism, violence, and general disruptions during class time are just a few of the examples. On top of that, concerns surrounding mental health are at an all-time high. More present than ever are the symptoms of anxiety and depression in adolescents, also largely brought on by the pandemic, which teachers and staff have been expected to take on and assist with. The increased need for interventions have added to the workload and put a huge strain on educators.  

        Most recently, the spread of the COVID-19 variant called “Omicron” has come with its own set of challenges. With large numbers of teachers out sick or in quarantine, the shortage of substitutes has weighed on schools. Teachers have had to cover for these positions, often giving up their only free periods during their day and contributing to already heavy workloads and stress. After going into the 2021-2022 school year hopeful that things were finally returning to pre-pandemic conditions, it has only left teachers more discouraged and exhausted. Jennifer Hoime, an English teacher at West Fargo High School, talked about what has been the most difficult part of her job.  

        “Teachers have an extensive list of ‘to-dos’ and not enough time to do them.” When on the topic of the effects of the pandemic and staff morale, Hoime spoke on growing concerns. “The workload and virtual teaching are too much. Teachers now feel as though they are on the clock 24 hours a day.” “Teachers are all looking at other options or ways to survive.”  

        Teachers and staff have struggled with overwhelming job expectations and mental health struggles, intensified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These strenuous conditions for our educators have resulted in heightened numbers of resignations, severe shortages, and the detrimental state of teacher morale.