Teaching was a stressful occupation long before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic occurred; during the pandemic, it might have become even more stressful. Teachers are navigating unfamiliar technology, are balancing multiple modes of teaching, and have concerns about returning to in-person instruction. In addition, many teachers are caring for their own children while teaching.
To explore the issue of job-related stress among teachers, the authors fielded a survey in January and February 2021 through RAND's American Teacher Panel. The results suggest that teachers have experienced many job-related stressors during the 2020–2021 academic year. Perhaps as a result, one in four teachers were considering leaving their job by the end of the school year — more than in a typical prepandemic year and a higher rate than employed adults nationally. Black or African American teachers were particularly likely to plan to leave. Also, teachers were more likely to report experiencing frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general population.
Stressful working conditions and increased personal responsibilities were more common among likely pandemic leavers (i.e., teachers who were unlikely to leave their jobs before the pandemic but who were likely to leave at the time of the survey). The experiences of these likely pandemic leavers were similar in many ways to those of teachers who left the profession after the start of the pandemic. These similarities suggest that likely pandemic leavers might decide to quit their jobs absent efforts to address challenging working conditions and support teacher well-being.