Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why So Many More Teachers Hate Their Jobs Now


Teachers join an Occupy DC demonstration in Washington on November 17.

Many teachers are unhappy with their jobs right now. That shouldn’t come as a shock, but a recent nationwide survey from the MetLife Foundation just confirmed this sentiment.

What is surprising about the survey’s results, however, is how much teachers’ job satisfaction has plummeted in just the past three years.

And if you’re thinking the numbers are primarily a result of merit pay, increased accountability or teacher union-oriented laws, the survey’s authors suggest there’s much more to the story.

Screenshot / MetLife Foundation

Teacher job satisfaction since 1984, according to a survey from the MetLife Foundation and Harris Interactive. Click on the image to enlarge.

The percentage of teachers in the poll who feel “very satisfied” with their jobs has dropped 15 points since 2009 — from 59 percent to 44 percent in 2011 — the largest decline in the survey’s 28-year history.

Why the big drop now? The down economy, the report’s authors conclude. To paraphrase:

  • Three in four teachers saw budget cuts in their schools — “urban, suburban and rural” — last year.
  • Two in three teachers watched their colleagues get laid off in the past year.
  • Teachers are four times as likely as they were to feel insecure about their jobs as they were in 2006. (34 percent feel insecure now, versus 8 percent then.)

Those who conducted the survey also say the teachers who aren’t satisfied with their jobs are more likely to feel their professional expertise is not respected in the community.

What About Policy Changes?

Even through the implementation of No Child Left Behind, which was controversial from its inception in 2001, teacher satisfaction numbers in the MetLife survey inched upward. Just four years ago, more than 62 percent of teachers reported feeling very satisfied with their jobs — an all-time high.

But Kevin Welner guest-blogs at The Answer Sheet that, while the economy played a role, it’s hard to overlook recent changes to education policy:

Teachers see states and districts implement policies that largely base their performance evaluations on student test scores. These new policies are layered on top of No Child Left Behind and the subsequent years of narrowed curricula and teaching to the test. Teachers have been watching sadly as the sort of engaging learning that attracted them to the profession is increasingly squeezed out. Further, teachers in many states are facing attacks on their collective voice in education policy by anti-union governors such as Walker (Wisconsin), Scott (Florida), Christie (New Jersey), Daniels (Indiana), Kasich (Ohio), and Brewer (Arizona).

The MetLife survey’s directors acknowledge teachers have often been the focus of criticism and heightened media scrutiny.

“They show readiness to embrace higher standards and accountability with support, but are concerned that their voices are not adequately heard in the policy debate,” the report’s authors write.

As Emily Richmond blogs at The Educated Reporter, more research about teacher attitudes on recent policy changes will be necessary:

Given the tidal wave of reform enveloping public education, it will be interesting to see what happens to the teacher job satisfaction numbers in the coming years. There’s a national conversation underway about teacher tenure, and nearly half the states and the District of Columbia are already overhauling their teacher evaluation processes so that they are tied more directly to student testing data. Those changes aren’t likely to boost the percentage of teachers who say they feel secure about their jobs.

“We’re in the midst of a real culture shift in the teaching profession as we move to emphasize teacher effectiveness,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “Change is hard, and it can really make teachers uncomfortable.”

She suggested future MetLife educator surveys include questions about current reform measures, such as district and state-level changes to evaluation models and policies. To not go there next, Jacobs said, “would really seem like a missed opportunity.”

How do you react to these numbers? How can they be turned around? And do you think teachers’ misgivings are justified?



  • inteach

    Past surveys have shown that teachers who had higher levels of satisfaction generally felt like they were treated as a professional by the community and school leadership, had the ability to influence policies that affected him/her, had adequate time for classroom instruction, and had significant involvement in shaping the school curriculum.

    The good,old days.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      What do you think of the economic correlations here? The survey seems almost dismissive of recent implementation of merit pay, union-busting, etc.

  • Tinanichols1

    why isn’t there a petition to sign at the end of this article to get the voice of the teachers heard? We are missing the opportunity to unite. Come on!

  • Just another pawn

    “Change is hard, and it can really make teachers uncomfortable.” Really, Sandi? Being an effective teacher means embracing constant change. It’s not change that makes us “uncomfortable”. It’s the misguided destruction of education in favor of test factories that has teachers demoralized. Teaching is a calling. Teachers are dedicated to nurturing students, not turning out test-taking automatons.

  • Underappreciated and Abused

    (1) Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, anyone? This is a glaring omission on the part of Mr. Stokes- Jindal is as anti-teacher as it gets.
    (2) I am so sick of non-educators telling educators “This is what you think, and this is what you feel.” While simultaneously inserting snide remarks about teachers not being able to handle change. Pompous jerks! I could explain to you why teachers are actually leaving the profession and design a much more quantitatively valid survey to get my evidence But I don’t think you would appreciate my efforts.

    • Leaving in Louisiana

      I returned to my rural Alma mater to teach and serve as a positive black male role model to my students and community. My first year I did not have to pay much attention to testing, because I had a non testing course. I loved my job and felt that I was creating well rounded students in my subject. As well as making true generational changes in some of my students lives.

      I did so well (according to Parish assessments) I was promoted and now teach a high stakes testing class. I was enjoying going at my students pace and teaching them whole concepts. One day my supervisor came and observed me and told me I needed to teach for the EOC test.

      This along with Gov. Jindal’s heavy handed education “reforms” has led me to make the decision to leave this profession and enter policy. I am already interviewing and plan on leaving in December.

  • Sam

    Dept of Edn in NSW pretends to update the curriculum every 2-3 years only to find it isnt good enough. Supervising staff call the shots on their own merits, have staff favourites and hide from classroom teaching as much as possible. 15 years in the game has clearly demonstrated this. No longer teaching and am now appreciated professional in another industry. PS, the office ladies dont control which casual gets to work today. $ year degree to get pushed around by the tea lady. Joke.

    • AJ

      What industry did you end up in? I’m ready to get out of education myself!

  • SickOfIt

    Teachers do not become teachers for the money. It is truly unfortunate that districts, driven by state mandates, are wasting our energy and time on changes….just to appear as if something is being done. Change….just for the sake of change. Teachers need to be allowed to do their job effectively. Instead we are blamed for the failed system put in place…..the “non negotiables” that we are required to teach, that gives us no time to do what really needs done. The public has no idea what we are asked to do and how bad things are. Teachers are powerless…….we need to stop blaming teachers and unions for the problems created by the distrcis and government. I work a minimum of 60 hours a week and teach my heart out……I am tired if the disrespect we receive in return for what we give of our personal lives on top of work time. Yes…there are horrible teachers….lets stop treating the majority as if they are too. Let’s put the blame where it belongs. The government and districts are ruining our children’s opportunity to receive a quality education.

  • Amanda Printz

    I am a good teacher. I was offered three different jobs in three different schools, without ever submitting an application this past summer. The school I’m in went to a “Big Picture” paradigm and is declining rapidly. Teachers have no support, or even curriculum. I am seriously considering leaving the profession. My work is devalued constantly, parents cannot be bothered to help their children, and the only professional support available comes from overwrought colleagues.
    This is the only job I have wanted to do since I was four, and I’m well on my way to hating it.

    • Burnedoutmusicteacher

      Best of luck. I felt called to teach from the beginning but I have left the profession. I just can’t keep up with the demands any more. 5 hours of sleep a night, didn’t see my two young boys more than 4-5 hours total during a work week… not a life. I’ve been off teaching for 8 months and though I’m still bitter, it’s starting to gradually leave my system and I can tell there is a living human under there.

  • Jason Suggs

    What is it about teachers that they assume they should be immune to the same problems as everyone else. Most people have seen their incomes drop because of the economy. And the worst thing a teacher has gone through is see a collegue lose a job. Give me a break. Teachers are like spoiled children. I saw we just fire the one who complain the most and things will get a lot better.

    • “Justaspoiledchild”

      I think you should go spend a day teaching, then come back and comment

      • peasantman

        I think you should spend a month teaching, form a rapport with your students, see the terrible working conditions and utter disrespect administrators hold for their teachers, eat a 5 min. lunch for 30 days straight while grading papers and checking parent emails, piss in 10 seconds flat when the bells dictates you to do so, you get the point buddy. It’s hell. Go sip your coffee, play computer games, and fit a little work in your day while degrading teachers some more. You are a jerk off. Period. Love, TUSD teacher.

    • NoWhiningInSchools

      I am a teacher fairly new (3rd year) to the profession and yes! The worst part is the complainers! I am surrounded by teachers who say its impossible and don’t even follow the curriculum and complain about being “spied” on by admin, they say they hate their jobs regularly and I just think THEN LEAVE! I have several qualified young new teacher friends who’d be happy to take their spot! I hear “keep doing all that extra (differentiation) stuff and so much small group and your going to burn out fast!”

      • abrilmonte

        Ha! you truly sound like you are in your 3rd year. Stay in the same school for at least 6 years, and then you can talk.

      • Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

        I think that you have to recognize that teachers who have been around longer have a perspective on the amount of freedom that they once had to keep things more child centered. When my 18 year-old was little, he had FAR more recess and create hands-on projects/ fun than my 8 year-old does today. And when I was in school, we were outside three recesses a day..even in the snow. My children aren’t allowed to play in snow and their school day is at least an hour longer than mine was. Time on task is not the answer to anything except perhaps a little bump in a standardized test score. Teachers complain because they are blamed for the ills of society, measured for “effectiveness” on exams that better reflect a child’s socioeconomic status than his learning, and have lost control over their decision-making in the classroom in the process. They have reason to complain. HOWEVER, I hope that they will use their dissatisfaction to organize and to vote out politicians who feel they know better about what should go on in the classroom than the professionals who are trained to do so.

        • lwag

          Agreed…new teachers only know what the profession is like now. We cannot relate to those who complain about how good it used to be so we just accept the way things are.

      • guest

        From a 23 year middle school teacher to a 3rd year teacher, you must have slept through “bonehead” english…..your grammar is atrocious!

  • John Holbrook

    “Change is hard, and it can really make teachers uncomfortable.”

    This is the fundamental problem teachers face. Bureaucrats unfairly judge teachers using test scores, tie teacher performance and pay to meaningless test data, ruin careers, and keep termination hanging over the heads of teachers. When you point this out, it’s dismissed with “change is hard.” Not if you’re safe behind your desk at an advocacy group, Sandi Jacobs. More importantly, it’s change that we don’t need. Once you control for poverty, American schools are among the best in the world. Problem is, we have a lot of poor kids. Seems like the “change” bureaucrats and advocacy groups should be making is making sure poor kids are fed and that they’re in school. Instead of legislating test scores, I’d like to see someone legislate that. Then we teachers could shrug our shoulders as these same advocacy groups and bureaucrats cry about the impossibility of their task and reply “Yeah, well, change is hard.”

  • Brandy Boss

    Teachers are humans, just like everyone else. There are the good and the bad. As a child a teacher was like a second mother who you were almost sad to see go at the end of the year yet you were glad to finally not have to listen to! On the other end as for the comment “parents cant be bothered to help” is completely the problem here… As a child there was very little work that was SENT HOME and not getting it finished usually had little impact on your overall grade as long as you absorbed enough of the material to do well enough on the test. It seems parents are being forced into doing the job of teaching. Teachers are sending mass amounts of work home that my kids have little practice in, or even knowledge of… and we are basically forced to help them do/learn it or the child receives mass amounts of zeros in their record affecting their overall grade!!! Parents are busier than ever these days and there is hardly such a thing as stay-at-home mom… We need teachers to do the teaching again, whatever that takes! Smaller classes I say!!!

    • peasantman

      You are seeing more assignments coming home because the teachers can not fit all the required standards and test prep in their day. It simply can NOT be done, not with 30+ students in a class that all have varying abilities. You are feeling the effects of this terrible teach to the test culture that has all the teachers in a panic. The anxiety affects the students and ultimately your home life as well. This is all because of No Child Left Behind and the push to create an illusion of learning and proficiency with test data. It is a sad time to be a student and a teacher. :( We are utterly powerless to make the change. Such a misuse of power and such a terrible injustice.

    • DinosaurBones

      It is true that much more is being sent home. The unrealistic standards and the sheer volume of curriculum make it necessary to keep on track “to take the test.” Yes, parents are busy but, at the end of the day it IS your child. Would you not want him/her to have an advantage?

  • M

    What is extremely frustrating is being a new teacher in these tough times. With budget cuts, once again I will be among the first to lose my job come August.

  • Greg Moser

    After 27 years in the Indiana classroom, I accepted an early buyout offer and left. There was no longer time or permission from administration to engage in the true joy and spontaneity of learning. There were no raises during the past ten years, and merit pay at my school is $300. Accountability is now based on test scores of all students including the severely-disabled students who have been “totally included” in the classroom with mind-numbing numbers of IEP-ordered differentiations that miraculously disappear on the state test, . Add to that the constant criticism in the media and from Indiana’s own Superintendent of Public Instruction who pushed to defund his own public schools in order to please his private, home-school, and charter school financial backers, and teachers are leaving in droves. My school has lost almost half of its teaching staff in the past six months. This isn’t about change, this is a corporate attack with one goal: end public funding of education so that companies may profit. Good luck, Florida, with your newly-appointed superintendent. Indiana clearly indicated that it had enough of his destructive nonsense.

  • georgiateacher

    I am beginning to hate getting out of bed each morning to teach. I have an ever expanding number of responsibilities (no class size caps, new standards, new exams, decreased support staff) and haven’t seen positive growth in my paycheck in nearly six years. Between unpaid furlough days and my county (Gwinnett) absorbing the money the State of Georgia allocated for teacher raises, while not funding raises, but instead, rolling out state of art technology initiatives and building fancy, new buildings, I feel very unvalued. Why was it I took out all those student loans to be treated as less than a factory worker? (At least THEY have unions and can collectively bargain!) Meanwhile, the CEO of the system, the honorable Alvin Wilbanks, earns more than the president of the USA! Has he seen unpaid contract days? I don’t believe so. I have actually read his pay has INCREASED while teacher pay dwindles to a pathetic, dismal mockery. It is all very disheartening. “We want higher test scores,” administration cries. Yeah, well, I just want to afford my mortgage, gas in my car, and clothes on my kids’ backs. It is getting difficult to even be able to afford respectable clothes so I can show up for parent teacher conferences and not look like a raggamuffin. Ridiculous. Teachers in Gwinnett County Georgia are more than fed up with being treated this way.

  • so tired

    any job is going to have policy changes….my grievance is principals/superintendents that roll over for parents of ill behaved children. I cannot get any teaching done 3-4 days out of the week because children know they can get away with ANYTHING. And my classroom management is not an issue- I can generally control the classroom. The issue is a lack of discipline when I do have uproars. Parents never tell their children “no” and when we do, they don’t know how to handle not getting their way.

    • Sick of teaching

      I am you, exactly my feelings too. No parental support, no administration support. But, oh my if a parent calls and complains about a teacher, that teacher is immediately called to the principal’s office like they are already guilty of what the student says……proof on the teachers part that they did not do what the child says……it seems to be happening more and more.

  • Caitlin-Calvin Peck

    union busting tactics are the supposed reason for the downturn in satisfaction? uhhhh….no.

    teachers are dissatisfied as a collective result of being treated like they are lazy money grubbing jerks that don’t know what they are doing….so politicians of all stripes insist they change what they are doing…..then everything gets horrible…then they are blamed for it even more.

    the problem is politicians butting in telling PROFESSIONAL TEACHERS how to teach. In response to this slight to their professionalism came the unions, a natural way for professionals to protect themselves. And now the profession is doomed further as they collectively bargain all legitimacy they had out the window.

    Who the heck wants to work in a profession that requires massive education and certification only to be told how to do every minute detail by either power hungry politicians or collectively moronic unions?

    • kpwn

      “collectively bargain all legitimacy they had out the window.”
      elect better representatives..

  • jennifer castillo

    i have been teaching at English in Costa Rica for the past 6 years and I completely understand the sentiment of the article. Although teaching is a vocation it is a challenge worldwide

  • nick

    Teachers are under siege by unruly, un-parented, disadvantaged students AND political congressional leaders simultaneously. Can you blame them?

  • Noyes Harrigan

    Each year or two some new top-down reform is pushed on us. I think it’s time for a bottom-up approach. Unfortunately, I’ve been teaching ten years and so far not one person above me has ever asked for my opinion on how education policy can be better.

  • Joe Pullman

    This isn’t just teaching, it’s everywhere. My wife just got notified after 20 years of working for a company that she would have to either move to a new location (2hrs away) or take a severance package. Realignment, and new software for billing. Change is never ending in todays world. If you don’t change, you lose out. I don’t feel sorry for teachers, never have, never will. I know a lot of teachers who made a ton of money and hardly did any work. Off all summer, footloose and fancy free. Back to work and lots of time off during the school year. And then below you read all the hard luck stories. BS!


    Teacher satisfaction is down because of everyones attitudes towards their profession. Administrators say “we have the best teachers” and then continually give bad evaluations on TESS. The system is a 1,2,3,4. What started out as, ‘we want to live at 3 (proficient), we might occasionally visit 4. Is now, no one gets a 4, everyone has to have at least one 2. After one of my observes, I got all 3′s. My admin told me I had to pick an area I could improve and he changed the score to a 2 (basic) one step away from being a complete moron. Administrators are no help, there is NO CURRICULUM and there has been none for the past 5 years since Common Core (which was meant to make sure all students were being taught the same thing). Every teacher writes their own curriculum searching the internet and PINTEREST. Aren’t you concerned that your child’s teacher has to pinterest curriculum??!! This is why teachers eat at their computer screen at lunch and don’t actually have any breaks. I put in at least 10 hours overtime each week just do what is required as they always add responsibilities but never take away. Our schools parking lots have 10+ cars in them every Sat. and Sun, at all times- because teachers are still trying to figure out what to teach for the next week. Teachers know how to teach. Teachers are not the problem Administration, Superintendents, and the State Departments of Education is the problem. Teachers are the ones in the trenches trying to make it work no matter what! And yes, we have a slough a disabled students in regular classrooms where their needs are not being met, drain the teacher from being able to teach the class, who should not be in a classroom setting. You can’t ask people to do something that is impossible and then complain when they can’t do it. My administrator scolded me for asking a ‘behavior’ student to sit and wait as I was talking to another student. What was I supposed to do?? Answer two students at once?? THE AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND I WANT OUT. DEAR GOD WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HIRE ME TO DO ANYTHING ELSE BUT THIS??

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