Most people become teachers because they want to make a difference in the lives of children. Teaching is a gift of the Spirit and not long ago, was a highly valued and admired profession. 

That is not what we see today. Teachers are leaving the profession at alarming rates, citing burnout, unrealistic expectations, negative impacts on their mental health and lack of support in meeting the emotional needs of children in the classroom. 

One survey found that “more than three-fourths (76.4%) of teachers considered leaving their position during the 2021-2022 school year.” And while the effects of online learning due to COVID-19 have impacted teacher burnout, many teachers continue to leave in droves even after the pandemic.

Many teachers leave because of pressure to show up for children in ways that are outside their expertise. I asked my neighbor, a 4th-grade reading teacher, what the most significant challenge she faced as a teacher was. She responded, “The amount of responsibility being dumped on our shoulders is crippling and causes us to feel helpless. I am not a counselor, cop, psychologist, judge, pediatrician, pharmacist or jury. I am a reading teacher.” 

We wouldn’t show up to our doctor’s office looking for legal advice or walk into a hair salon seeking help for a car repair. Still, it seems widely assumed that teachers must go beyond their teaching capabilities to be considered successful educators. 

Without support or the presence of social workers, some teachers have experienced threats and attacks, both verbal and physical. Education cannot happen when there are constant behavioral interruptions and safety concerns. 

I asked my teacher-neighbor the impact these stressors have on teachers. She said, “I feel burned out, anxious and sad that the career that is my calling and spiritual gift feels like such a burden. My teammates have all been to multiple doctors this year: one with ulcers, one with a new anxiety diagnosis and one with an overload of stress-related cortisol, which causes facial swelling.”

Many states and school districts have idly watched teachers drown over the last few years with no signs of relief in sight. A national EdWeek Research Center survey reported that “more than half of respondents said that mental health and wellness of teachers in their school had declined over the course of the 2022-2023 school year.” 

There is a crisis in the teaching profession. Students are sent to the counselor when they have difficulties, but where do the teachers go? 

Is there an entity or community large enough to help this crisis? One person may not get the job done, but churches have an opportunity to step in and support these teachers.

Caring for the well-being of teachers is an easy opportunity for churches. After all, teachers are whom we entrust with our children. 

The church can engage with young students by offering mentors to those who have faced trauma and hardships and whose circumstances may cause them to act negatively in the classroom. 

A study conducted by the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program found that mentored youth earned higher grades than a similar group of young people who did not have mentors. Mentored students also have a better chance of engaging with the work and less likelihood of poor behavior in the classroom, allowing teachers to do their actual job.

Often, we in the church assume how people need to be helped and take it upon ourselves to figure out the best course for helping. However, one of the first steps in giving aid should simply be to ask, “How can I help?” 

Many teachers may face varying challenges, so they may not have the same answer. Some may just want to feel seen and appreciated by the people around them.

However, others may need in-person support or one-on-one counseling. Opening small groups for teachers at churches, homes or even during lunch breaks could be a healthy way to help teachers express their challenges and feel understood. 

Churches could provide breakfast or lunch for teachers on special holidays to show them how much they are appreciated. Also, sending postcards to teachers from multiple congregations expressing their encouragement and prayers throughout the school year could help facilitate the feeling that support is coming from a wider part of the community. 

The responsibility of caring for students cannot solely be that of teachers. The church has an obligation to respond. This happens when local churches bring these issues before their community and make it known they support their school districts, students and teachers.

But they also must demand change. Each fall, as we prepare for a new school year, we can imagine God asking, “Whom shall I send?” We pray there are still godly teachers bold enough to answer, “Here I am; send me.”

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