Teachers need our help. They care for our children, teach them social skills, and educate them in every subject from math to history. However, many teachers across America are struggling with money, stress, and even burnout. That begs the question: why are teachers suffering so much, and what can we do to support them?

This article will touch on the realities of being a teacher, and how parents can help their children’s educators lead a happier, more fulfilling life. They’re supposed to set our children up for success, so shouldn’t we set them up for happiness and stability?

Teacher burnout is real

According to Psychology Today, half a million teachers leave their jobs every year, and 41% of teachers leave within five years of starting their profession. To make matters worse, 66% of teachers are leaving to pursue careers elsewhere, citing low pay and burnout as their reasons for leaving. The term teacher burnout brings up mental images of dying fires and used matches, and that’s an apt comparison. Teachers are working themselves so hard that they develop severe stress, anxiety, and depression.

Many teachers, especially those who work in public schools and low-income areas, aren’t given the resources they need to succeed. Many of them work despite dismal conditions: small classrooms, outdated materials, too many students per class – just to name a few. Many schools have to cut corners due to lack of funding, and this directly affects the teachers. Their coworkers are laid off, they have to take on extra students, and subjects like the arts have to crowdfund in order to operate.

This creates the perfect climate for disaster. Teachers have to work twice as hard to do their jobs, which results in exhaustion and anxiety. If they continue working despite the stress, they might go on to develop depression.

Most teachers struggle with money

On top of burnout, many teachers grapple with their finances as well. In fact, many teachers report that their financial struggles contributed to their burnout, causing them to seek better employment.

The ones that stay in teaching either have to rely on spouses to help cover expenses, or get second jobs. Hundreds of thousands of teachers are working as janitors, retail employees, bartenders, drivers, and other part-time professions because they have to. Otherwise, they cannot make ends meet.

Despite the fact that they’re already struggling, many teachers spend their own money on school supplies in order to keep their classrooms running. They buy everything, from erasers and pencils to books and games. Teachers for underfunded subjects buy even more — art supplies and instruments are expensive to maintain, especially when you’re managing an entire class. Most teachers spend at least $500 per year, and some spend over $1000.

Many teachers in underfunded and poverty-stricken areas spend even more, purely out of goodwill. While public school is “free”, many families still cannot afford to buy their children the supplies they need. So, teachers will provide for these kids and purchase backpacks, notebooks, and even clothes or shoes. They don’t have to, but they still spend their own funds to provide for the children they teach.

5 ways you can support teachers

If you want to encourage the teachers at your child’s public school, or just want to lend a hand to those who need it, there are ways you can help. Here are five ways you can support those who contribute to the future.

1. Donate supplies

As mentioned above, many teachers have to buy extra supplies. Help lower that cost by asking them what they need, and buying it for them. Make sure to get their input, or you might end up donating something they have too much of.

2. Volunteer

If you have the time, offer to chaperone during field trips. If you have the ability, you can also schedule guest appearances in the classroom.

3. Attend PTA meetings to offer ideas and support

PTA meetings have a reputation for being negative, so every positive presence helps support teachers and reassure them that their work is appreciated.

4. Contribute to fundraisers

Some subjects, especially the arts, have to crowdfund to afford field trips, supplies, and extracurriculars. Give a dollar or two! You can even help fund your teacher’s classroom via Classful.

5. Attend rallies & protests

Many teachers are banding together to protest low pay and downsizing. Join them!