'Disheartened' teachers

Forty percent of K-12 teachers are “disheartened and disappointed” about their jobs, concludes Teaching for a Living, a Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates study. Another 37 percent are “contented” and 23 percent are “idealists” determined to help disadvantaged children.

Most of the disheartened teach in low-income schools. They’re frustrated with unsupportive administrators, disorder in the classroom and testing.  Contented teachers typically teach in middle-income or affluent areas where they say their schools are “orderly, safe, and respectful” and their administrators are satisfactory. Idealists are younger and often teach in elementary schools.

Nearly 9 in 10 Idealists believe that “good teachers can lead all students to learn, even those from poor families or who have uninvolved parents.” Idealists overwhelmingly say that helping underprivileged children improve their prospects motivated them to enter the profession . . . 36 percent say that although they intend to stay in education, they do plan to leave classroom teaching for other jobs in the field.

Although the researchers caution that the teachers’ idealism does not necessarily guarantee that they are more effective teachers than their colleagues, half of Idealists believe their students’ test scores have increased significantly as a result of their teaching, a higher percentage than other teachers in the survey.

Bad principals and bad working conditions will keep good teachers away from troubled schools, whatever the pay incentives they’re offered, experts tell Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuck.

“Within a few years, an idealistic teacher moving to one of these schools could become disheartened” if underlying problems with school culture aren’t addressed, said Tom Carroll, the president of the National Council on Teaching and America’s Future, or NCTAF, a Washington-based group that advocates changes in the structure of the teaching profession.

More than two-thirds of disheartened teachers plan to stay in the classroom.

Teachers are stressed when they feel they have no control over their jobs, writes Thomas Newkirk, a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Skimming the report I have a few questions…if each child needs a highly effective teacher and 40 percent of teachers are disheartened and disappointed but 2/3rd of these teachers say they will stay in the classroom, isn’t this horrible for the students? Couple this with the fact that most of the teachers teach in low-income schools and the problem is compounded. In this environment the kids in these schools, for the most part, will continue to struggle and a percent of them will continue to fail. How does this get remedied?

    Second, if the best teachers will not work for poor/weak/ineffective administrators, how easy is it to get rid of administrators and bring in strong ones? Or if a change in leadership is not an option, what can teachers do to rally together for the benefit of themselves and their students?

    Without the ability to oust teachers or administrators isn’t this a vicious circle, a losing battle and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars?

    What are the solutions? In the business world these people would all be fired or demoted to a position that better suits them.

    Thanks —

  2. We expect miracles in hard to staff schools but don’t make choices that even come close to making miracles a reality. Good teachers won’t work for bad principals and lots of times the bad principals are only bad in high needs schools. They would be fine in a middle income school, just like most teachers. Teachers and principals are being pushed into the same boat more and more by pundits and the press. Maybe this is a good thing. I don’t think these statistics are particularly enlightening. Check out this data from the society for human resource management.

    Research indicates that employees who are satisfied
    with their jobs are more likely to stay with their employers.
    According to this survey, 86% of employees indicated overall satisfaction with their current position, with 41% of employees reporting they were very satisfied. ((((Sounds like the teacher data)))))
    What’s more, majority of employees (58%)reported that the current economic climate has not made any difference in their level of satisfaction—and this is good news for employers, especially during the economically challenging time.

    Why would we expect teachers to be any more satisfied than any other profession?

  3. Disheartened does not mean defeated.

  4. Mike Curtis says:


    “In the business world these people would all be fired or demoted to a position which better suits them.”

    In the business world, the “Peter Principle” postulates that employees who work well will be promoted until they reach a position which exceeds their ability. In other words, workers will be promoted until they reach their highest level of incompetence. It’s at this level they will stay unless they do something so harmful to the business that it warrants them being fired. Rarely are people ever demoted…they are usually just let go.

    The Public’s problem with incompetent administrators is that nobody knows what their job description is, and, that administrators report directly to the board which selected them for the job. To remove an administrator for incompetence would require the board to admit to the Public that they chose the wrong person (nephew, cousin, in-law, wife’s best friend, etc.), for the job.

    It’s so much easier to dismiss for insubordination or disobedience, a teacher who shouts, “I’m not doing this. This is nuts!” Rather than fight, disheartened teachers may choose to walk away, or persevere and wait for a better opportunity to present itself.

  5. Mike: A business that doesn’t find some way to counteract the Peter Principle will eventually be driven out of business by competitors with better management. For a large corporation like GM, this can take decades – unless government gets involved and ensures it still doesn’t happen.

  6. Dorothy Barton says:

    A few thoughts from a second-career teacher (after 24 years in the corporate world)
    1. Young, “idealistic” teachers are leaving the classroom after a couple of months or a couple of years, and they are no longer idealistic about education when they do. [Two weeks ago, a young black teacher quit. She was disheartened by her black students swearing at her and throwing books at her. Race does not matter.]
    2. In the corporate world, if a supplier sends you faulty material, you return it. Teachers cannot send back faulty material (students).
    3. In my regular classes, there are two students with IQs in the 70s. Three Hispanic students speak almost no English. One third of the class is “repeaters”.
    4. Despite my corporate and life experience, I had to start at the bottom of the payscale, just like any newbie. My master’s degree gets me $232.00,additional,per month. My student loan payment is $150.54 per month. Do the math, then think about the next ad you see for higher education.
    5. Mine is an equity school. The majority of the student population is black and hispanic. While there are 3-4 students in each class who want an education, many are killing time till they are sixteen and drop out. Some are there because their family will lose welfare benefits if they don’t attend. Most dream of being sports heros, rappers,singers or models. There is one who wants to be a pediatrician.
    6. Most people do not understand that many of the hispanic students we teach,come to us illiterate in their own language, not just English. Therefore, we have a double load with them.
    7. Yes, there are some teachers who get to school just before the bell rings, and leave as soon as the dismissal bell is heard.
    Most of us put in 2-4 hours after school with tutoring, remediation, testing, and grading papers. Unpaid, of course, because teaching is a “calling”.
    8. Go to your local high school and volunteer to sub one day. (It only takes a high school diploma to sub, you know.) Make sure it’s a regular class, and be sure to let them know that you aren’t really a teacher. Good luck!


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