“Anyone else cry after work?”: Teacher Reddit is the unfiltered voice of educators – Education Week | Team Cansler

“Anyone else win after work?”

“Why doesn’t the administrator just disappear and let us teach?”

“To quit or not to quit (it’s always the question).”

Recently posted on a popular reddit page for teachers, these questions could be a barometer of the well-being of the teaching profession these days. The subreddit called r/teachershas nearly 390,000 subscribers, many of whom are teachers who anonymously apologize for misbehaving students, demanding parents, and frustrating administrators.

While teacher communities are a staple on almost every social media site, Reddit’s anonymity allows educators to be extra open and vulnerable. And while the userbase isn’t representative of the entire teaching community, many of the subreddit’s users say they’ve noticed a surge in posts about how emotionally draining teaching is and a growing desire to quit.

While the forum risks turning into a reinforcing loop of negativity, it is an important source of support for many educators. And experts say it may be a way for school leaders and policymakers to see the inner workings of a crowded and beleaguered workforce — and potentially adjust policies accordingly to better hire and retain teachers.

The subreddit could serve as a “canary in the coal mine” for understanding the state of the teaching profession, said Amy Stornaiuolo, associate professor in the department of literacy, culture and international education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Reddit posts, Stornaiuolo conceded, “can be pretty easily dismissed as ‘These teachers are just complaining,’ or ‘This is just a vent, but we shouldn’t take it seriously.'” But she argues that the forum should instead be used as “a kind of litmus test of how teachers are doing”.

“Your social-emotional needs are not being met; You’re being asked to do more with less,” she said. “[We can] Use this as a window of what it looks like when this pressure just increases and increases and increases.”

A study presented this month found that the status of the teaching profession is the lowest in five decades – teacher job satisfaction is at an all-time low, public perception has deteriorated and fewer young people are interested in the teaching profession. The pandemic and recent political pressures have exacerbated the job’s constant challenges, including low wages, a heavy workload and high levels of accountability.

“Teaching can feel very isolating, especially in the current times when their professionalism is being questioned,” Stornaiuolo said. The posts on Reddit, she said, reflect a mentality: “The kids aren’t doing well; I feel not good; something is happening here.”

Reddit is like an online teachers’ lounge

In many ways, the teacher subreddit serves as an online teacher lounge. Educators from across the country and even the world, teaching all grade levels and subject areas, ask for advice, share small wins, and discuss the general state of the profession.

Some of the posts are positive stories about a class win or a heartwarming student interaction. But those posts can feel few and far between amid posts about classroom management challenges, concerns about a lack of job autonomy, and other workplace grievances. Posts considering resignation also consistently rise to the top of the subreddit.

One of the subreddit’s moderators, a former music teacher who wishes to remain anonymous because he received death threats on Reddit, said he’s been moderating the forum for five years. Though there’s always been plenty of room to breathe, he said he’s noticed a shift in recent years, as teachers have become even more frustrated with their low salaries and growing workload.

Therapy is expensive; Internet connection is cheap.

A high school teacher and Reddit user

The subreddit was designed as an “open forum for teachers to talk and get their heads up and try to work things out,” the moderator said. “The problem is that things seem to be getting darker and darker for teachers, and the tone of the posts seems to be going — not darker, but definitely angrier.”

And while the subreddit has long been vulnerable to attacks from trolls (or disgruntled students), the rhetoric of those attacks has shifted in the past seven months or so, the moderator said. Today, on an almost daily basis, the unpaid moderation team deletes posts labeling teachers as “child molesters” or “groomers” — derogations made by some conservative pundits and politicians during debates over whether to allow classroom discussions and materials related to sexuality and LGBTQ identity should be used as a weapon in schools.

“The stuff bleeds into the sub and then we have to fight it,” said the moderator.

The subreddit can be a place for support

Reddit users have said that the forum helped them get through the toughest days of school. Christine Greenhow, a professor of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University, reviewed some of the subreddit posts when asked by Education Week and said she noticed a sense of solidarity and support among the posters.

While many of the posts on the subreddit ask for tips from other teachers, some users wrote that they didn’t necessarily want advice — they mainly wanted to vent, Greenhow said.

“These are places where you can express your fear and say to other people, ‘I see. Let me tell you how it’s played in my school or classroom. You’re not alone,'” she said. “This seemed like a place I could go and talk about what’s going on and catch other people’s thoughts. That can be very reassuring – it can be a source of solidarity.”

And when teachers have a greater sense of solidarity, they’re less likely to leave the profession, Greenhow said. Surveys have shown that a significant number of teachers plan to quit in the next year or so, although it remains to be seen how many will actually do so.

A vocational and engineering teacher in Texas, who requested anonymity for fear his name would be linked to his Reddit account, said the forum’s anonymity gave him a safe space to vent among like-minded people, which helped him have to deal with the stresses of teaching.

“It was my catharsis,” he said. “Most people just don’t get it. You don’t really understand this job unless you’re really into it. … You can only find out with people who are in the same boat as you.”

He quipped, “Therapy is expensive; Internet connection is cheap.”

School leaders and policymakers could monitor the subreddit to feel the pulse of the faculty, Stornaiuolo said, “There’s something very powerful when many, many people are saying the same thing.”

Still, she warned that teachers who spend too much time on the forum’s negativity could perpetuate and deepen their frustration.

“I think people need a space to be able to share the full range of their emotions, but when it’s overwhelmingly negative it can also add to a sense of hopelessness,” she said. “It’s a fine line: sharing stories together can inspire action, something can change. It can be a catalyst, but it can also be a spiral.”

And the tenor of the forum posts doesn’t necessarily represent the teachers’ full selves, the Texas teacher said.

“You have to read it with a grain of salt — we come in for therapy to get it out and some have to rant at the moment because we are who we are and we all have an altruistic bias,” he said. “We lay never really flipped the switch on not being a teacher. It keeps us busy 24/7. We wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how we can make our kids better off…. Right now [getting] spending it somewhere safe is an extreme need.”

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