'I'm Only 1 Person': Teachers Feel Torn Between Their Students And Their Own Kids

Educators around the U.S. told us they're facing heartbreaking choices between the needs of their students and the needs of their own children.
Stamper with her husband, Pete, and two sons at their home in Washington, D.C. Source: Jared Soares for NPR

I catch Patricia Stamper with a Zoom meeting going in the background and a child at her knee asking for attention. Stamper works as a teacher's assistant for special education students in the Washington, D.C., public schools.

These days, her virtual classroom is at home — and so is her toddler, who has a genetic disorder called Noonan syndrome, and her kindergartner, who receives speech therapy. Her husband works outside the home at a golf course.

Stamper says her older son can't sit still for three to four hours a day of screen-based learning. The other day, while she was working, he started acting up, imitating his favorite YouTube star. Soon the teacher was texting her — her son was nearly kicked out of virtual class. "It's hard to check him," she says. "I'm trying to do my job and, you know, bounce back and forth, but I'm only one person."

There are more than 4 million public, private and charter school teachers in the United States. The typical teacher is a woman in her early 40s. Over the summer, a national sample of teachers, and we found that about half had children under 18 at home. Of those, 57% agreed with the statement: "I cannot properly do my job from home while also taking care of my children."

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