Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Disheartened and Disappointed?

According to a recently released survey, 40% of U.S. teachers are disheartened and disappointed about their jobs. (37% are content, and 23% are idealistic.)

Only 40% of teachers are disappointed with their jobs? The state of our education system must be better than I thought. Or maybe I just hear from a disproportionate number of dissatisfied educators. Because I rarely -- almost never, in fact -- hear from the apparently 60% of teachers who love what they do and are happy to be doing it.

A few years ago, I ran -- or attempted to run -- an ongoing series called Love Teaching. During the two+ years of the series, despite constant efforts to fan the flames of career passion among our readers, only thirty-four teachers took the time to sit down (perhaps : ) and write a few words about why they loved teaching. Thirty-four passionate teachers...among more than 5 million educators who are active on our site! Maybe the rest of the satisfied 60% -- the other 2,999,966 happy teachers -- are too busy to write, or too content?

I do hear regularly, however -- apparently in disproportionate numbers -- from the discontented teachers in our audience. I hear that their students are unruly; their parents are neglectful and critical; their colleagues are unavailable; and their administrators are unsupportive. I hear that they're overworked and underpaid and largely unappreciated. I hear that supplies are meager -- and rationed -- and that textbooks are out-of-date and in short supply. I hear that burnout is inevitable, and that frequent lengthy vacations are an emotional imperative. I hear that an early retirement is their goal.

And when I hear those things, apparently from only 40% of you (although it seems like more), I wonder how much of your unhappiness is visible in your teaching -- and how much of it is learned by your students. Because while it's true that there are unhappy workers in every profession, I doubt that any group of disgruntled workers does as much damage as a single unhappy teacher.

So my advice to the 40% of you who are disheartened and disgruntled is to get out of the profession before it's too late; before your dissatisfaction with teaching translates into your students' disatisfaction with learning. Leave the job to the 60% who bring energy and enthusiasm to their work, and a love of learning to their classrooms. Leave it to the teachers who "can because they think they can." (Virgil)

And those of you who stay...take a minute to tell us why you love teaching. We hear too often from the naysayers -- and too seldom from the majority of teachers who do what they do for the love of it.


  1. I agree! My father, who is a retired teacher, always tells me not to say this out loud, but, there are days I CAN'T BELIEVE I ACTAULLY GET PAID TO TEACH!!!!! I LOVE IT NO MATTER WHAT!!!!

  2. Maybe they shouldn't pay me. I just spelled actually incorrectly:(