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Why Teachers Don’t Recommend Teaching

I just read a report that shocked me. While surveying the faculty in my home state, the Department of Education received a huge number of responses. In fact, normally our DOE expects ten percent of those surveyed to actually reply. I guess our teachers had a lot on their mind, because about half sent back answers. The survey must have hit a nerve.

Approximately 70 percent of the 53,000 faculty surveyed said they are “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to encourage graduates to enter the profession and become teachers. In other words: “Hey, I’m in this job, and I don’t suggest you do what I did.” Only a trifling 2.7 percent said they’d encourage graduates to become teachers.

What a sad commentary on the current state of affairs.

I think we’d all agree, teaching isn’t what it used to be. Most teachers I meet become my heroes, but they are unsung heroes, often laboring in an emotionally expensive classroom with students who don’t want to be there (and say so). So, now, our teachers are saying the same thing. They are so frustrated with their jobs, they are reluctant to encourage anyone else to do it.

Why is this? Let me venture a guess from my observations.

  1. The system pushes them to “teach for the test.”

According to a 2015 Bayer Survey Facts of Science Education, “nearly all teachers believe ‘hands on’ science lessons serve kids best, but 4 out of 5 teachers say their school teaches for the test.” I don’t think most teachers are poor at their work. I think they are in a system that is broken. Even the best and brightest can quit.

  1. Our society doesn’t esteem the teaching profession like it once did.

“Somewhere in this country, we have decided that teaching is not the most respected career and that’s a problem,” said Tomeka Hart, Executive Director of the Southern Education Foundation. In fact, parents are often combative with faculty, defending their child’s behavior or poor grades. Parents are teachers’ top headache.

  1. Standardized testing forces faculty to process more than teach.

I recognize people disagree on this issue, but one thing is for sure. “Teachers are frustrated and part of that is a lot of paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Testing. Testing. Testing,” said Ernie Lee, 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year, who teaches at Windsor Forest High School in Savannah. They’re forced to record so much that they’ve lost the energy to engage in their real work of connecting with kids.

  1. Students often lack respect for teachers.

Many schools we work with say discipline issues are on the rise. Students are empowered by parents to see themselves as “customers” who deserve special treatment and even perks for participation. Many kids don’t look up to teachers. “There’s a disrespect now for authority, for education, for ethics, for morality,” said Verdallia Turner, President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers.

Why Is This a Problem?

May I say the obvious? Due to salaries being tied to standardized test scores and poor campus cultures in many places, we may see college graduates turn from a career in education to do something more rewarding. Less emotionally expensive. More life-giving. Less taxing. This is sad. I believe teaching should be one of the most admired and sought after career choices for university students. It is all about engaging the next generation, helping them prepare to make their mark, to solve the world’s problems and to serve the needs around them. Becoming a teacher is about betting on the future. If we don’t have our best people graduating into this career, we are all in trouble. It ought to be one of the first places we encourage our young people to invest their lives, not the last place. It is up to us, however, to change this issue.

So, this week, may I embolden you to start now:

  1. Write an encouraging note to a teacher—either a current or a past teacher.
  2. Come to their aid. Defend the profession, when it surfaces in conversation.
  3. Recognize teaching gifts in students and suggest they use them as adults.
  4. Challenge the brightest students you know to enter the field of education.
  5. Get involved and weigh in on issues at your local Board of Education, if you can.
  6. Volunteer whenever possible, adding value to your local schools or students.
  7. Push for collaboration between parents and teachers. Too often they’re at odds.
  8. Ask a principal or a teacher how you can provide aid where it’s needed most.

Let’s start a quiet revolution that puts education back on top of the career wish list.



  • Karen

    It all depends on the parents. If the parents are engaged emotionally with their children, teaching those children will be easier. Many parents of previous generations, mine included, were emotionally distant. We turned out okay, but I want to do better for my children, so I listen to them and both of us are more involved with them emotionally. And I think that is more true for the parents of the peers of my youngest.

  • Ann Magelinski

    The results are no surprise as we have known the reasons for years. The issues have become political and more often than not, teachers are not included in the discussions.

    • Thanks for weighing in Ann. I agree. I wish teachers were involved with many of the discussions happening around education.

    • Floridabloggergirl

      I was just talking with someone TODAY about this! Teachers are the ones in the actual classroom with students but have virtually no voice when it comes to decision making in education. That’s CRAZY because teaching is a profession where EVERYONE of them has to be college educated and so many have master’s and doctoral degrees. Why aren’t they being asked for input?

  • Jaytee5561

    #1. The education system in the US, is essentially broken, and has been for awhile. There are rare, anecdotal examples of success, however, in general we are falling down.
    #2. The schools teach to the test. That is where your job security comes from. The CCSS are a joke. The kids are being shown, not taught, how to do this and that. Too much virtual reality crap, “imagine the erosion of a river bed”.
    #3. Related to the above. The schools have little to no resources, consumables, or other supplies to teach hands on. If you are in an urban environment, the kids can’t remember or get push back from the parents, “Why do you need these soda bottles? They are trash. So put them there!” The kids environment is also nor conducive to getting an education. Mostly school and teaching is babysitting.
    #4. Related to #3, when we did get hands on materials, most of the kids did well. The visual and kinetic learners help the audio learning peers.
    #5. Stop being in such a rush to cram in too many subjects. If you have the materials, lesson plan set, give us more time to model, teach, and help with some kids who need one-on-one. I had 6 IEP’s in my self contained.
    #6. The breakdown in our culture for respecting teachers and others, began in the early ’80s. (Check the web!, it’s all there). We can save this for another day. The parents of this period was too permissive, and it has brought us to today. Note when the US began its slide downward trend in the PISA data.

  • mariposahillbilly

    You forgot to mention the new generation of administrators. Since there is a shortage, they are hired with little to zero teaching experience. They need teacher support to fill in the rough patches as they learn on the job. Yet they treat the teachers like children. They need to remember that the vast majority of teachers are just as smart or smarter than they are; they simply prefer to teach rather than administrate. I am sick and tired of training them, smoothing out rough spots with parents, and being treated like a ten-year-old.

    • Havoc Dog

      Spot on. May I add many if not most of the administrators I’ve known and dealt with came with their background of non-core, non-standard classrooms, such as GT teachers, Coaches, and Elective Subjects. Very few of the administrators in my district have any serious experience in a core subject general ed classroom.

      • mariposahillbilly

        That’s so true. I never thought of that before! It has bearing.

    • You make a great point. Everything rises and falls on leadership. I have seen tough schools succeed with great leaders and I’ve seen great schools falter due to poor leaders.

  • Leigh Sudol-DeLyser

    #9 Vote for your local school budgets.

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