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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.


  1. Karen on February 17, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    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.

  2. Ann Magelinski on February 25, 2016 at 10:17 am

    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.

    • Tim Elmore on February 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm

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

    • Floridabloggergirl on August 10, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      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?

    • Steven H on September 11, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      If the issues are political then it’s the teachers, or at least the Unions, that have made it so.

  3. Jaytee5561 on February 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

    #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.

  4. mariposahillbilly on February 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    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 on February 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      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 on February 26, 2016 at 6:42 pm

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

    • Tim Elmore on February 26, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      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.

    • Katthy Jackson on December 16, 2020 at 11:04 am

      This is so true. Some actually see teaching as a stumbling block to their administrative ambitions. During my last five years as a teacher I was made to feel stupid just about every time I had an interaction with my administrator. Honestly, if I had not been so close to retirement I would have seriously considered switching careers. I loved loved loved my students but dealing with their needs when you can’t take care of your own really wears you down.

  5. Leigh Sudol-DeLyser on February 25, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    #9 Vote for your local school budgets.

  6. Jennifer Chandler on January 21, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    It seems teachers are caught between serving the school system and serving the parents and the two don’t always get along and the teacher is stuck in between. I remember when my second son was in Kindergarten it was all day. His teacher was having a very hard time getting him to focus and finish his school work. I got really upset because she would keep him in from recess to complete it, then expect him to be able to focus when he was not allowed to have any kind of physical activity. I later found out this is at least a district wide thing to do that. I think it is absolutely ridiculous to do that to a Kindergartener. She had him tested for everything that could possibly be wrong, but found exactly what I told her. There is nothing wrong with him, he is just being a child, responding to his environment and what he was allowed to do. When put in a public school, children are just not allowed to be children and learn the best way for the anymore.

  7. Me on September 19, 2018 at 9:25 am

    A lot of parents simply suck at parenting their children. They don’t discipline their kids at all. Blame teachers for everything. The administrations are incredible morons for the most part. If you get a good one you are in the extreme minority. Superintendents are a complete waste of money. That position should be eliminated. The board of education is usually full of dumbasses on a power trip that know nothing about what makes a school elite. I teach and would not recommend anybody to go into this profession. The pay sucks and every time you come up for a contract, the school cries they have no money. Yet, administrators keep giving themselves big pay raises and bonuses. I look forward to the day where these idiot administrators and parents can’t get teachers who speak English and then look at the stupid looks on their faces.

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  9. Patty Fortna on October 23, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    Please, please do not subject yourself to emotional distress and possible lawsuits bt teaching in America’s classrooms in this era. Today’s “children” are coached by their parents to find any flaw in their teacher (especially middle school and high school), so the parents can sue the school district and “settle” out of court, The older ones will record, take pictures and distort anything you say or intend. They will throw you under the bus (pardon the pun) so fast, just to to get power on their social media and even money out of court. Believe me, I’ve been teaching for two decades, and I see the pattern everyday! Save yourself, save your marriage, save your family the grief.

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  13. Rose on April 10, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Lack of resources, respect, poor salary, and lack of opportunities for professional growth, lame and demeaning evaluation systems like Charlotte Danielson model that has been totally misused and is TOTALLY being misused by many incompetent and unethical administrators to bully good teachers. You should NOT be allowed to be an administrator unless you have at least 10 successful years in the classroom teaching a curricular subject. Too many young administrators getting “handed these positions.” And they are incompetent and then threatened by teachers who know more than they do. There should also be opportunities for parents and teachers and students to evaluate administrators (including superintendents). Many superintendents NEVER TAUGHT EVER!

  14. Rose on April 10, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Too many young administrators getting “handed these positions.” And they are incompetent and then threatened by teachers who know more than they do. There should also be opportunities for parents and teachers and students to evaluate administrators (including superintendents). Many superintendents NEVER TAUGHT EVER!

  15. Rose on April 10, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    There should also be opportunities for parents and teachers and students to evaluate administrators (including superintendents). Many superintendents NEVER TAUGHT EVER!

  16. Erica on July 20, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    There is no cohesion from grade level to grade level so teachers know where to pick up at each grade. Common Core is not research based. Cognitive psychologists have shown it is not research based. I’ve used it and it sucked. There’s not knowledge base. The basics to reading, writing and arithmetic are not being honed as they once were when I was a kid. We have kids that don’t know their multiplication tables, but kids in some third world countries know their multiplication tables up to 24.
    That lack of cohesion exists within the training of teachers as well. Quite frankly most of the professional development is irrelevant and it just busy work. This creates a feeling of “if you’re not working at an insane pace, then you’re not a good teacher.” Teachers need the same level of education and training as doctors & lawyers, 4 years is not enough. They need 6, which includes a 2 year “residency” just like a doctor. If they are in Special Education, they need a minimum of 8 years.
    Our education system needs to start learning how the medical field is so cohesive and implement that into the education/training of teachers and the education of students. In the medical field, lives depend on that cohesion from the education of the professionals to the function of a hospital. So when it comes to educated future generations why do we take this so lightly? Unless of course the omission of cohesion and knowledge base curriculum is being done on purpose.
    As teachers we need to become better at knowing which questions to ask and how to ask those questions. That will help identify and articulate the dysfunction and be able to resolve it.

  17. AB on September 4, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    A business school professor asked our class, “What’s the purpose of a budget?” His simple answer? “It tells you the priorities of an organization.” Check out teachers’ average salaries compared to those of administrators. By the time you get to regional admins (superintendents, politicians…), the educational organizational priority is glaring. Cut out the admins and restructure education to put teachers and families jointly in charge. And hold each party accountable–teachers for doing our job ethically and competently and parents for partnering with us and parenting responsibly. And while we’re at it, everyone should understand that dangerous parties (parents, teachers, kids…) are NOT entitled to pose a threat to the rest of the community. Violence should be immediately and firmly dealt with.

    Read most Americans’ (or even international…) surveys of the public’s perception of teachers. A recent NYT article on why teachers earn so little relative to other similarly educated professionals concluded that we’re relatively stupid and have few other professional options. Other articles even portray us as often downright malevolent. And coronavirus has shown us how poorly many parents and administrators think of us and how little they value us. For many, we’re disposable–like, sadly, so many other relatively low-paid “essential” laborers.

    But I lay the lion’s share of blame at the feet of us teachers. For decades, we’ve read that we TEACH others how to treat us–that people will get away with whatever we allow them to. We can’t expect our communities and administrators to treat us with professionalism, courtesy, and respect if when they fail to do so, we respond by … continuing to work for them or paying increasing tuitions to earn teaching certificates (career changers, college grads…). If more of us were willing to say “NO!” to abusive or disrespectful behavior, either we’d be replaced by something else people might prefer OR society’s need for teachers, made much clearer, would likely sweep in the large, systemic changes we teachers have been begging for for decades. WE have been teaching our communities it’s OK to treat us the way we claim is intolerable.

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Why Teachers Don’t Recommend Teaching