Despite Long Hours, Low Pay,
Teachers Love Their Profession
NEA Survey Paints a Groundbreaking
Portrait of Today's Public School Teachers
all of the problems in our public schools and the constant reminders
of the low salaries that teachers are paid, you would expect job
satisfaction to be low. Somehow, despite all the negative factors
that make headlines, the reality is that most teachers love teaching!
survey, conducted by the National Education Association (NEA),
showed that many of America's public school teachers spend their
own time expanding their knowledge and skills. Classes and professional
training are a way of life for many teachers. Some even go to
summer school to learn new skills and keep up with advances in
for the classroom are hard to find, teachers spend hundreds of
their own dollars purchasing supplies, books, and materials for
their students. The most impressive statistic is that, in spite
of the long hours and low pay, a majority would still return to
the classroom if they had it all to do all over again.
are among the thousands of fascinating facts about the professional
and personal lives of today's teachers contained in Status
of the American Public School Teacher. The NEA has produced this report every five
years since 1961. These pages paint a picture of the teaching
profession over four decades. They are the most comprehensive
look at today's public school teaching force and how it differs
from previous decades.
survey takes you inside some typical public school classrooms
and introduces you to the dedicated professionals who are working
there," said NEA President Reg Weaver. "I'm proud to
say that children attending public schools today are being taught
by the best educated, most experienced teachers ever. And that's
just the start of the good news within this report."
Some key findings
should cause some concern. If the average teacher has 15 years
experience and 23 percent began within the past five years, that
means a large number of teachers are reaching retirement age -
and not being replaced by new teachers. If this trend is not recognized
and addressed, at some point this will result in an experience
gap. Many new teachers in classrooms without the mentoring of
the "old-timers" to improve their skills.
spend an average of 50 hours per week on instructional duties,
including an average of 12 hours each week on non-compensated
school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty,
and club advising.
based on fewer hours and no overtime, the complaints of the classroom
teachers become more understandable. Many outside the schools
feel that the long summer vacations justify lower pay scales,
but in reality, many teachers spend a good part of their vacation
honing their skills for the upcoming year. Facing a classroom
unprepared is tougher on the teacher than on students who wander
in with no homework done. Curious children are demanding and can
be unforgiving in a classroom setting.
With a new
set of federal requirement, meeting standards can be as difficult
for the educator as it is for the children they teach.
areas are cutting back on the taxes available for school funding.
The Federal government has mandated many changes that they have
not provided funding for. Teachers are caught in the fiscal bind
and many supply what they need out of pocket to keep their classrooms
all of this, three-fifths of teachers (60 percent) said they would
become teachers again. However, there were many (21 percent) who
said they would not choose teaching as a career if they could
start over again.
For the first
time, the survey sought to identify the reasons for teachers leaving
the profession before retirement. The most often cited reason
(37 percent) for abandoning their training and professional experience
was low salaries. Minority teachers (50 percent), male teachers
(43 percent), and teachers under 30 (47 percent) were most likely
to claim low pay as the reason they will not stay in teaching.
open to young professionals with advanced degrees are often much
more lucrative - financially - than teaching. Supporting a family
on a teacher's salary is not an easy task. No matter how dedicated
a teacher may be, fighting to pay bills on a regular basis, or
working a second job to make up the difference between career
paths they could have taken, can discourage long term commitment.
also reveals a profession that is struggling to provide role models
of both sexes and all races within a teaching workforce that is
predominantly white (90 percent) and female (79 percent). Since
1981, the ratio of male to female teachers has steadily declined
- it now stands at a 40-year low (21 percent).
the news in this report is encouraging on many fronts, the survey
also includes some warning calls that can't be ignored,"
said Weaver. "People are leaving our profession because of
the low pay, and we're struggling to recruit and retain male teachers
and teachers of color. These are areas that we must address and
Education Association is the nation's largest professional
employee organization, representing 2.7 million elementary and
secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support
professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students
preparing to become teachers.
Education Association (NEA)