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International Women’s Day is a very important day in the education system. As of 2019, 54% of the world’s secondary teachers and 67% of its primary teachers were women.

Before I entered high school, I had been taught by only five male teachers. Part of me knew this wasn’t right; obviously, there should be more men willing to teach younger grades. Yet, part of me was proud. Women were teaching everything, including every math and science class. Even at a young age, I knew that was unusual. Most of the time, men taught STEM, and women taught the stereotypical “easy” classes like English and history.

During high school, the gender split was roughly equal–but every math teacher was male. I cannot express how much I appreciated the woman who taught me biology, environmental science, and honors chemistry. I thrived in those classes, and that was largely thanks to her.

The Great Teacher Resignation in the United States, MyCoolClass, and International Women’s Day are all connected.

So, in honor of all the women making the choice to change lives through teaching, I would like to take a moment to discuss the importance of women in education.

Elementary School Teachers are Women… Right?

In 2020, 89% of public elementary school teachers in the United States were women. By high school, that number had decreased to 60%–still more than half of the workforce. In the UK, only 14% of primary school teachers were males, and thousands of men left primary and secondary education in the 2010s.

The reason for these numbers is highly debated. In the States, early childhood education and elementary school teachers are paid significantly less than their high school counterparts. The job isn’t taken as seriously, or the job is considered easier. The (ridiculous) logic is that everyone knows the alphabet, numbers, and geography, so teaching those grades requires less training.

Speaking as someone who has worked in those environments, I can attest that there is nothing easy about being an ECE or elementary school teacher. In addition to being able to teach core concepts, the job requires significant patience, compassion, classroom management, and energy that is truly difficult to maintain. Furthermore, you better know everything there is to know about the Earth, solar system, human body, weather, and anything else observable because the “Why?” questions never stop.

Nevertheless, the US and UK do not represent all societies, and we must admit that global education is more complicated.

For example, in Ukraine in 2020, 98.5% of primary teachers and 82% of secondary teachers were female–one of the highest countries in both categories. Most of its neighbors, including Russia, Moldova, Belarus, and Hungary, have significantly higher percentages of female teachers than the global average, too.

Conversely, only 15% of South Sudan’s primary school teachers were female in 2015, and there is no available data from Somalia since 2007. In 2016, merely 4% of Guinea’s primary teachers were women, and the last data from Guinea-Bissau is from 2000.

Economists, sociologists, political scientists, and world leaders all have opinions and reasons for why these numbers vary so widely. Regardless, there is always one clear connection: Women can teach where girls can learn.

When online companies and teachers provide education access to girls, it furthers the entire global society–and the chance that those girls will become teachers, too.

“A Day Without a Woman” Led to Severe Teacher Shortages

In 2017, “A Day Without a Woman” events occurred in more than 50 countries. This general strike happened on International Women’s Day, and it focused on women’s rights and their contributions to their families, communities, and global society. Initial planning began in Poland, where it was later reported that tens of thousands of women marched. Activists in the US gave additional exposure, as it followed The Women’s March in January 2017, and other countries quickly gave additional support.

The strike’s relatively long planning allowed teachers to request leave in advance, resulting in teacher shortages throughout the country. At least four schools closed, but some suspect that number was higher. (One school announced closing after approximately 1,700 teachers requested leave.) Schools that did stay open required substitutes to takeover–and in 2017, 71% of substitute teachers were women, too.

The strike exposed the skewed gender ratio in education, and it did spark conversations on that topic for a few days. Unfortunately, other issues soon took priority, and the discussion quieted–until now.

The Great Teacher Resignation

The Great Resignation is a movement in the United States, in which a significant number of workers are leaving their jobs to become self-employed. The idea is that these resignations, along with other steps, will ultimately lead to greater employee rights, pay, and benefits.

The logic, intent, practice, and consequences are all complicated. There are arguments about race, class, and gender wrapped into it, with strong opinions on every side. However, the point is this: teachers are one of the groups jumping ship.

Despite articles from a few optimistic sites, many teacher- and education-focused organizations are reporting alarming rates of teachers intending to resign, as well as recent resignations. The reasons for this flight are not petty. To give readers a clearer picture (especially for those outside the US), here are common complaints:

–Teachers (and students) are being exposed to COVID. Only 65% of Americans are fully-vaccinated, and many schools do not take the necessary precautions to lower the risk of teachers and students contracting the virus. Despite having a vaccine approved for younger students, only 26.2% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated–leaving elementary school teachers especially vulnerable.
–A survey published by the National Education Association in December 2021 found that 90% of teachers rated “feeling burned out” “serious” or “very serious”, and 91% gave the same ratings for “general stress” due to COVID. These issues are compounded by feeling disrespected by parents and the general public and not having enough time to plan lessons. Additionally, teachers cited concerns about students’ behavioral issues and a lack of mental health support for the students.
–There is a severe shortage of substitute teachers, making it difficult for educators to take time off if they or their family members become ill. This shortage is causing some states to change their laws, making it easier to become a substitute teacher. Although this could help more people become passionate, enthusiastic educators, the concern is that there will be a greater number of untrained, underqualified individuals suddenly thrown into a chaotic situation.
–COVID created a learning gap, and teachers are pressured to teach a large quantity of information quickly. At times, teachers have reported that when they try to prioritize students’ mental health, parents chastise them for not focusing enough on academia.

In the study cited above, 55% of educators reported expecting to leave or retire earlier than originally planned–up from 28% in July 2020. Teachers identifying as people of color were more likely to have these thoughts, potentially resulting in less diversity in the American education system. Interestingly, data on gender appears to be unavailable regarding the planned (and previous) resignations, but considering the ratio in early grades, we can assume that women are leaving, too.

It should be noted that teachers are not the only individuals affected; aides, counselors, and support staff are struggling, too. The entire education industry is being damaged by these difficulties.

Most schools in the US finish their academic year between the end of May and middle of June, so we will have a greater understanding of The Great Teacher Resignation in a few months. However, no one should be surprised if schools are scrambling to fill tremendous vacancies over the summer break.

How MyCoolClass Provides an Alternative

MyCoolClass was founded by teachers experiencing many of the problems discussed above. They felt underappreciated by their administrators or platforms, and they believed they could have a greater impact in a different environment. Upon speaking with colleagues, it became clear that these feelings were not unique.

Like many teachers, they knew that there was a better way to teach.

Although some educators may permanently leave the industry, many teachers are finding a new career path through online education. Furthermore, experts and industry leaders who are resigning are experimenting with teaching their craft, either as a side hobby or full time.

MyCoolClass allows anyone to teach, as long as they have expertise in their field. For example, a math teacher may have been a lifelong math teacher in a live classroom or an electrical engineer who simply loves teaching trigonometry. These individuals are passionate teachers who want to share their knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of Ukrainian primary and secondary teachers are women. MyCoolClass is aware of the enormous challenges facing this population and has taken several steps to help Ukrainian educators teach their students. These steps include a simplified application process in Ukrainian, waiving the onboarding fee for teachers affected by the conflict, and creating a volunteer program to provide free supplemental education to displaced students.

One of the fundamental principles of cooperatives is open membership. There is no bias based on gender, socioeconomic status, nationality, race, ethnicity, or any other demographic. Anyone willing to participate in a democratic, autonomous, member-led organization that has concern for their communities is welcome.

A Final Thank You

When I think of the strongest women in my life, I think of librarians, doctors, nurses, and social workers, but “teachers” always comes first. My life is better because of the preschool teacher who taught me how to empathize, the high school science teacher who believed I could be a leader, and all the teachers between them.

To all the women choosing to teach in these turbulent times…
To all those who teach despite gender discrimination…
To all those who earn significantly less than their male counterparts…
And to all those who are providing education to future female leaders…

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