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.