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What is it like to be a teacher today? A new survey provides insights

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K-12 teachers in public schools are stressed, with 77% saying it is frequently stressful and 68% saying it is overwhelming.

Few are optimistic about the future of public education, with 82% indicating they think the state of public education has gotten worse in the past five years.

And many say poverty, absenteeism, and mental health pose significant challenges for their students.

Those are the toplines of a new national survey and report by the Pew Research Center released this month.

And yet 81% of those same teachers range from somewhat to very satisfied with their job.


A personal mission statement from a teacher

Most educators I meet at some level feel called to serve our students and their community.

A teacher at Old Fort Elementary School in McDowell County has this “personal mission statement” posted on the door to her classroom:

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, reader, traveler, and teacher.

I seek to understand what I do not know or what baffles me.

I am a content person that tries to maximize my time by acknowledging what is really important and discerning what is frivolous. Our children are most precious, and therefore need to be treated with dignity and respect. Through them, I am reminded of what is genuine and pure.

Through travel, I have become aware of the common humanity that binds us a human beings.

I am proud to be a teacher, and know that every day counts for our children because they deserve the best I can give them. I use research-based evidence to try to be most effective.

Being positive and kind are attributes I strive to achieve.

How do you capture that in a survey?

You can also see some of this in the new data dashboard on attrition. Of 4,981 teachers who listed a personal reason for leaving the profession in 2023, just 292 indicated it was because of a dissatisfaction with the profession.

The why behind dissatisfaction

If teachers are dissatisfied with their job, it is interesting to look deeper to understand why, and the report by the Pew Research Center provides insights.

For many teachers, dissatisfaction is related to compensation: for 51%, it is related to pay, and for another 24%, it is related to benefits.

For others, it has to do with support — or lack thereof — including professional development (26%), resources to do the job (23%), and freedom to implement the curriculum (22%).

And for others, it has to do with relationships. For 16%, dissatisfaction has to do with the administrator at their school. For 13%, it has to do with parents. And for just 4%, it has to do with students.

The scope of the survey

The survey looks at more than job satisfaction, with in-depth looks at:

Take a look, and tell us what you see as well as how it aligns — or doesn’t align — with your experience of classrooms, schools, and the profession in North Carolina.

Behind the survey

The report by Pew Research Center is based on an online survey of 2,531 U.S. public K-12 teachers conducted from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14, 2023. According to the report, the teachers surveyed are members of RAND’s American Teacher Panel, a nationally representative panel of public K-12 school teachers recruited through MDR Education Survey, and the data is weighted to state and national teacher characteristics to account for differences in sampling and response to ensure they are representative of the target population.

Here is the survey. Here is the methodology.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.