Below the Tip of the Iceberg

The Reality of Working in Education Post-Distance Learning


Ellie Chiles, Editor in Chief

Have you ever wondered why there’s a “We’re Hiring Teachers!” pop-up on the West High Website? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 300,000 teachers and faculty staff have left the world of teaching since the start of the pandemic in February 2020. They are tired of being disrespected, underpaid and underrepresented.

Although teaching looks like an easy job to do, classroom instruction is just the beginning. We interviewed math teacher David Haut and fine arts teacher Susie Kim. When asked how long each of them spend working outside of the 8:30-3:40 school day, they replied:

“I would say a conservative estimate would be ten hours,” said Haut.

Kim replied, “Contractually teachers start from 8:20 am – 4:00 pm. However, I know many teachers who come earlier and stay WAY later after school without extra pay, aside from the normal school hours, I stay until 6-8 pm after school to complete lesson planning/prepping, grading, emailing and calling home, making copies, updating and grading on Teams, gathering materials for my classes, talking to students after school about various subjects, club activities, meeting with other teachers for collaborating and of course, simply eating late dinner to keep me running around.”

We also spoke to West High alumna Karina Zuniga. When asked about her classmate’s behaviors now compared to early 2020, “I have noticed a difference,” she replied. “Post distance learning, students were on their phones more than they were pre-covid. I also noticed that classmates would misbehave a lot more, either by being defiant or talking when they shouldn’t be.”

Haut has also noticed a difference in his students’ behavior. He says, “The social skills had drastically diminished, and simply how to behave like a student was mostly forgotten. I wrote more bathroom passes last year than in the five years before combined. They are gone too long, every day.”

Students and their behavior are not the only things that have changed the culture of a classroom. “There was a huge difference in my teachers,” Zuniga tells us. “Post distance learning, I could tell they were beyond physically and mentally exhausted. Due to this, many became either more or less lenient. With the pandemic hindering our learning, many of my teachers had to teach things that we should’ve already known by then. As an AP student, I could especially see that drastic difference since my AP classes were much more rigorous pre-covid.”

Teachers are disrespected left and right by students, making their jobs harder than they should be. There is a way to show more respect toward them. “An easy way to respect your teachers more is to stay off your phone and turn off your music during class,” Senior Victor Rueda says.

Zuniga also had some advice. “Students can change their behaviors and show teachers more respect by simply having empathy for their teacher’s mental state. I think as students we were so focused on our struggles that we forgot about how our teachers were dealing with distance learning. We should check in on our teachers more and show appreciation for what they do for us.”

Mental health has been more important than ever in our society. However, it is extremely difficult for teachers to receive the services they need. Haut told us about his experience. “I thought about seeing if a life coach could help alleviate any stress, but when I looked there were VERY few appointments, and all of them were when I was teaching a class.”

Speaking of teachers’ health, they can’t take care of their physical health without doing extra work. “Teaching is one of the rare jobs where you have to plan for your absence,” Kim says. “If we have doctor’s appointments or any other kind of appointments, we need to call in for a sub and make plans for absence.” Teaching is a job that requires so much work outside of contracted hours.

Is the work-life balance impossible? Haut replied, “I have not figured out how to not allow teaching to consume such a large amount of my time. I never expected to be able to finish absolutely everything during the contract hours. But the sheer volume of work I do outside of school is done unpaid is overwhelming and affecting (negatively) the amount of time I get to spend with my family.”

Ms. Kim gave us a different response. “No, but you must trade one for something else, and most teachers trade in their personal lives for their work. I’m in a different position as a teacher because I live alone and have no pets or children so no obligations at home. For teachers who have children, a family they need to take care of, and their health they need to focus on, they can’t do everything that I can. They have other responsibilities. When you add 160+ students we need to take care of their growth and future, it takes a lot on top of the mental and physical toll of this job.”