Ad and Social Media Manager
3 January, 2023
A teacher at a nearby high school, Mr. Smith begins his day at 4am. He gets in his exercise for the day, an hour long gym session. He runs for 20 minutes, then hits the weights. He goes home, showers, puts on his work clothes and ties his tie. The daylight begins to peak through his windshield. It is time for work in which he must teach until 3:30, head home, then head out again to his minimum wage, retail job. His day ends at 10pm, where he barely has enough time to close his eyes. Mr. Smith is stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked. Mental health seems almost foreign to him. Some teachers, like Mr. Smith are struggling.
A lot of priorities on a teacher’s plate can lead to decline in their mental health and it is clear for many teachers at Atholton high school. Teachers feel that they have to perform their best, provide financial stability for themselves and their families, and be present for important events in their families lives.
Most teachers are committed to their jobs as teachers in the Howard County school system. When talking to math teacher Ms. Rangos, it became clear that teachers put a lot of pressure on themselves in addition to the pressure that is placed on them from the school system, administration, parents, and students, which can lead to a decline in their mental health. Ms. Rangos explained, “I want to do a good job at work so I often put a lot of pressure on myself which contributes to me working more than I should. It then makes it harder to have a work life balance which then contributes to my mental health.” When teachers like Ms. Rangos put additional pressure on themselves, they can experience feelings of burnout, stress, and the feeling of being overworked.
Mrs. Hanna, a science teacher at Atholton, made it clear that she needs a support system in order to balance her busy schedule. Ms. Hanna is married and she needs help supporting her two kids amidst her busy schedule. As a parent, she explained that she wants to be there for her kids, “I’m involved in my kids’ sports… my daughter plays volleyball so I go to her sporting events when I can,” but oftentimes her extensive schedule gets in the way. Ms. Hanna went on to explain that her husband is her support system and helps her immensely when trying to balance her work and home life.
Most new teachers are not paid wages in which they are able to support themselves and their families, which in turn affects their mental health. When speaking to Atholton Social Studies teacher, Mr. Johnson, it became clear that younger teachers fresh out of college or to the school system often need a second job to support themselves and their families. According to Howard County employment statistics, a starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $59,000 per year. According to living cost.org, Columbia MD is in the top 1% most expensive cities to live in. In order to keep up with the high prices of Howard County, Columbia in particular, many teachers have to work more than 1 job in order to compensate for the little income that HCPSS pays for entry-level teachers. Mr.Johnson explained that, “A lot of teachers supplement incomes by working second jobs or having other ways that they make money and I think that adds to the stress sometimes.” According to Mr. Johnson, A lot of less experienced teachers are working two jobs, including himself.
The United States is currently facing a national teacher shortage. Over the summer there was a concern that there wasn’t going to be enough teachers in many districts to teach the students adequately. According to the Washington Post, “The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels — and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them.” From further research into the teacher shortage, it has become clear that the teachers that are quitting are primarily young teachers that are starting out their new careers. Not making enough money in turn affects the mental health of teachers because of the added stress and anxiety that comes with having to work paycheck to paycheck and working more than one job.
It is clear that balancing mental health and work is a struggle for some teachers. Between balancing the pressure of teaching, money, and families it is proving extremely difficult to have a well managed mental health. Now, potentially as a result, there is a national teacher shortage. So therefore, the question remains, can the mental health of teachers be improved?