Photo Credits: Kiyomi Watson / Aggie
Due to the pandemic, fewer students are majoring in education and more teachers are quitting their jobs as a result of increasing constraints and pressure placed on teachers
With most schools being remote for over a year, admissions statistics illustrate that many students are becoming dissuaded from committing to a profession in education while more teachers are quitting their jobs.
Izamar Ortíz-González, a first-year Ph.D. student studying student-school organization and policy at UC Davis, described her previous experience as a teacher and how the pandemic has influenced her peers’ decisions. Last year, Ortíz-González knew it would be her final year teaching at K-12 schools as she began her Ph.D. program application in order to become a professor. Before she left, however, she noticed that with the transition to online learning, some children who had previously struggled in school were improving, while many who had excelled during in-person schooling now began to struggle.
Çağrı Güzel, a third-year Ph.D. student specializing in language, literacy and culture at the UC Davis School of Education, discussed the similar difficulties he noticed among the students he taught. He mentioned that students face physical strains and screen fatigue when learning online. In addition, he said that virtual learning can perpetuate an inadequate form of education and retention.
“After a certain point, it really doesn’t take you anywhere in terms of your education and in terms of getting the conversation or the topic at hand,” Güzel said.
Beyond the difficulties he has observed among students, Güzel also noted that the teachers are placed in a difficult position where they can sense the struggles of their students, yet they only have access to limited resources to help them succeed.
“Obviously, if you look from the other side—teachers’ perspectives—we’re seeing the problem, we’re in the middle of the problem and we’re trying our best,” Güzel said.
For Ortíz-González, the pandemic only emphasized the difficulties of teaching, such as developing relationships with different students.
“As a teacher, you’re in front of students, you’re performing constantly and […] you’re having a relationship with 30 different students,” Ortíz-González said. “If you’re a teacher in a secondary [school], like middle school and high school, that’s 160 different relationships.”
According to Ortíz-González, though teachers have always faced obstacles, now the harsh reality of the pandemic has encouraged many teachers to quit their jobs.
“Outside of my Ph.D. program, I do know people who […] stopped themselves from continuing their program or they’re taking a year off,” Ortíz-González said. “Whether they will go back, I’m not sure.”
In addition to more teachers leaving their positions due to the pandemic, Güzel noted that many of his friends deferred their journey to get a degree in education. Despite the difficulties surrounding careers in education, Güzel emphasized his commitment to his Ph.D. and remains motivated to pursue his goal of becoming a professor.
“When you’re in academia, you are already aware of the problem and possible problems that could always come up,” Güzel said. “This is part of our training process of how to manage these problems, how to manage unexpected crises and how do you tackle that in your trajectory. I am definitely very committed to my end goal.”
Although he remains within his Ph.D. program, he still has doubts over future job opportunities and potential success within the field.
“Because of the pandemic, I know that the job market right now is terrible and people are having a really hard time finding jobs, even to get an interview,” Güzel said. “It’s a big mystery, it’s a big question. It’s of course that fear too of what I’m going to do and how I should navigate this.”
For undergraduate students, Güzel said that the current issues that teachers face, such as a lack of resources, are dissuading students from pursuing a degree in education.
“When we have conversations with students, […] they are having second thoughts right now,” Güzel said. “When they see how their profession is being treated by the government and by other outlets, of course they’re having second thoughts.”
Despite these doubts, Güzel encourages his students to continue with their education degree.
“Of course we are encouraging them, but there are also realites that they are seeing as well,” Güzel said. “It’s very sad to unfortunately see that people are having second thoughts about their passions.”
If this pattern continues with fewer students becoming education majors and more teachers leaving their jobs, Ortíz-González said that this could seriously impact the quality of education that students receive. California has already been impacted by a teacher shortage that has made reopening schools more difficult.
“I think that in the short term, if teachers continue to leave or choose not to enter the field at all, you’re going to have bigger classrooms so students are going to have less quality instruction,” Ortíz-González said. “Because of the teacher shortage happening in California, a lot of districts are partnering up with teaching credential programs […] that expedite the process.”
Though the future of teaching remains unknown, Güzel remains confident that current educators will be able inspire students who are passionate about teaching to pursue a future in education.
“This is why we are doing this job,” Güzel said. “We will win them again. We will work hard. We will help their hopes come back again, and we will bring them back. It’s on us right now.”
Written by: Farrah Ballou — firstname.lastname@example.org