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‘Overwhelmed and overburdened:’ Teacher says morale at all-time low

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RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU partnered with seven central Virginia school districts to find out what could be done to make teachers happy, after national reports that teacher job satisfaction is at a 25-year low nationwide.

Chesterfield teacher Sonia Smith said she lives what VCU portrays in a new study about low teacher morale.

“You have teachers who come into the classroom who aren’t as energized and don’t have that extra umph to give to their students day in day out, Smith said.

Smith, who teaches English at Meadowbrook High School, said the problems listed in the report accurately reflect the life of a teacher.

“This is something classroom teachers have known for a long time,” Smith said.

For example, teachers are overburdened with new initiatives and paperwork and not getting to concentrate on actual teaching.

“Teachers feel overwhelmed, overburdened, there is far too much paperwork for the work they’re being compensated for,” Smith said.

Chesterfield teacher Sonia Smith

Chesterfield teacher Sonia Smith

The report also noted teachers needing to feel like they have more or a voice and leadership at the school and division level.

“They feel as though their voice will go unheard or muted,” Smith added.

Finally, the study noted teacher’s desire for more pay.

“We have far more teachers now than ever before that are taking on second or third jobs just to make ends meet,” Smith said.

She said those issues can all have a negative impact inside the classroom.

“The teacher may not be as engaging, may not answer everyone’s question, may not have a fun activity,” she said.

The study suggests policymakers need to encourage feedback, and make sure their policies actually work for teachers.

It also recommends removing something from a teacher’s workload when something new is added.

Finally, the study suggests school division leaders and principals stand with teachers when they advocate for higher salaries.

“We all need to come together and work on this together so that the people who do make and pass the laws and set our salary scales understand that enough is enough,” Smith said.