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A 65-year-old St. Louis teacher was beaten by a student in Jan. 2024.

Missouri teachers quit over student behavior, stress

Seven in 10 Missouri teachers have seriously considered leaving their profession, a survey from the Missouri State Teachers Association found. The main reasons are stress, student behavior and lack of pay, association spokesman Todd Fuller said.

“I think everybody would assume well, ‘It’s because they don’t get paid enough,’” he told “Missourinet. “And while that is a reason that is high, the two highest reasons why individuals have thought about leaving the profession, tied at 63 percent, are stress and student behavior. And honestly, the student behavior, that one was new. That was surprising.”

What is leading to teacher stress?

“What I see happening more often than not is that you may have a teacher that has one, two, three or sometimes maybe even five or six student that have an Individual Education Plan,” Fuller said. “The teacher is trying to help those individual students and at the same time help the other 20=plus students that they may have in the classroom, doing all of that without any help at all.”

In 2023, a statewide teacher recruitment and retention commission took a deep dive into the pain points that have led to Missouri’s educator shortage. State budget efforts have helped increase teacher pay over the past two years, but permanently boosting minimum teacher salaries is not on the books yet. Missouri’s starting teacher pay of $25,000 is one of the lowest in the country.

More than three-fourths of teachers said they are as stressed or more stressed than they were last year. Attacks on teachers have increased since 2020. A Jan. 2024 incident in St. Louis received international attention when a 65-year-old female teacher was beaten by a student. The incident was filmed by students and none intervened.

“The individuals that are leaving the profession are those that are in their five years or 10 years of experience,” he said. “And those are the individuals we desperately need to keep in our classrooms, because they can help the new teachers coming in, the transition from the number of teachers that will be retiring.”

However, not all of the results were negative.

“I think some of the things that we see is how much teachers enjoy teaching,” Fuller said. “Their passion is for helping students, and that hasn’t waned. We saw time and again with quotations about teachers wanting to be in the classroom, wanting to spend time with students, looking for ways to make that happen. But the challenge for them is that financially, sometimes they’re unable to do it anymore, or they just mentally they can’t do it anymore.”

–Dwight Widaman | MV

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