Will Rogers High School, across the street from TU, was founded in 1939 courtesy W.R. Oswald

Tulsa public school teacher retirement rates skyrocket

After years of budget cuts, talent droughts and a failed teaching strike, online learning was the last straw for many teachers.

Public School teachers already have a lot on their plate. First, they are grossly underpaid. Most teachers I know earned a little over $30,000 a year despite having a degree and years of experience teaching. Several teachers have to work a second job in order to support their family on top of putting in after school work hours to grade assignments.

I worked with Tulsa Public Schools last year and got some insight into the experiences behind the scenes. Last school year was the first time TPS was mostly online; the last three months being in person. Class periods
were put into block sections that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. These were middle schoolers we were dealing with. Imagine having to wrangle twenty 11-13 year-olds completely virtually for over an hour. Oh, and this was also during the peak of popularity for the game Among Us. We had to monitor chats and screens while trying to hold the attention of young students (and sometimes we caught them playing games with each other on other devices). Because classes were virtual, students had to learn how to use Canvas, which I did not use until college. They had to learn how to submit items and send emails asking for help, and most importantly, learn how to join the right Zoom meeting from their class pages.

Zoom meeting from their class pages. The problem we ran into the most was how to do homework assistance virtually. If we needed to see the students’ screen, we had to teach them how to share their screen. If they did not have microphone access, or did not know how to use it, it added difficulty with trying to communicate with them. A lesson plan that would have taken two weeks in-person took about a month virtually. In the English Language Art classes, reading a book took two months and two more months for students to learn how to write a paper about the book. This is in no fault of the students or the teachers, and was simply due to the circumstance of having to work around a new learning environment that did not seem to be working as well as they hoped for.

In addition to the struggles both teachers and students were facing, some parents did not seem to understand how hard teachers were trying. Parent-teacher conferences were also held online. Some parents were frustrated at teachers for not having all the information about their child’s progress in other classes. This caused tension and made it difficult for future conversations.

When in-person school came back, teachers had to police the halls and classes and make sure students were following COVID guidelines. Many teachers lost their planning periods in the morning due to the shift in class schedules. This gave them more work to do outside of the already long school day.

If online learning sucks for college students, imagine how younger students may feel. Sitting in front of a computer for eight to nine hours a day is absolutely no fun and such an eye strain for both students and
teachers. It is no wonder that teachers were retiring like crazy over the summer. The physical and mental toll it took on some people is just not worth it sometimes.

Post Author: Elissa Noel