Monday, October 26, 2009

A Disheartening Finding

Public Agenda has some interesting research out where they surveyed about 900 teachers from across the country on their attitudes about teaching. They then broke the teachers up into three groups: idealists, contented, and disheartened. In what has to be considered troubling news, the largest group is the disheartened teachers (the breakdown is 40% disheartened, 37% contented, and 23% idealist).

I'm not one to go around blaming teachers for everything that's wrong with education. However, this is the kind of thing that has to make you stop and think. Are disheartened teachers really going to be as effective as contented teachers? Is someone who thinks it's a "wonder that more teachers don't burn out" really going to be the best person to have in the classroom?

A couple of points worth considering. First, disheartened teachers are much more likely than contented teachers to be teaching in low income schools. Naturally, this tends to be a more challenging environment, which probably has an effect on how teachers view their profession. Also, disheartened teachers are more likely to be negative about their principals and to say that discipline and behavior issues are problems at their school. Administrator support is also listed as a negative.

I'm a little curious about the chicken the egg relationship between the answers. I wonder if its negative conditions that make the teachers disheartened or if disheartened teachers are more likely to see the negative side of things.

Whichever it is, it's a problem when nearly half of teachers (a great percentage of whom are working with the neediest children) are unhappy with their jobs. Whether that means working to improve conditions in schools (which would be helpful) or whether it means removing teachers who don't belong in classrooms (which may be necessary), the status quo can't be allowed to stand.

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