Why is Teacher Morale So Low?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Tyler B., Mar 8, 2012.

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  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    This NY Times article claims that the morale among teachers is at a 20 year low and that one-third of teachers plan to leave the profession within the next 5 years.

    I love teaching. I can hardly wait to see my students each day, but yesterday had a meeting with teachers from all over the city. I met a young teacher who had 39 high-risk 4th graders. If this happened to me, I don't know if I could remain positive.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/08/education/teacher-morale-sinks-survey-results-show.html?_r=1


    _______________________________________________
    favorite blogs: http://ed-is-life.blogspot.com/ and http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/
     
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  3. funvalue

    funvalue New Member

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    Teaching is fun if you can teach stuff you know and are excited about and if the students are getting excited about it. But maybe we are not supposed to have fun.
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    There was a similar article on edweek - didn't read it, but saw it posted. I think it has to do with the level of autonomy and professional granted to teachers. I think many teachers are willing to work hard and go beyond, but feel professionally crippled by policies over the past decade which have significantly limited their ability to make decisions and have influence in their classroom.

    To voice the other side of the argument, teachers weren't always making the best decisions before in terms of instructional strategies, so there was and continues to be some need to "structure up" what goes on inside a classroom, but that doesn't make it more fun or meaningful for the teacher.

    From my personal experience, I feel really bad for really good teachers - teachers who would be making extremely good instructional choices, but aren't able to because of external policy. I do think the external policies are needed, because I've spent more than a few years working with teachers who weren't able to independently select great curricula/instructional strategies, but there are a percentage of teachers out there that could, and should be able to.
     
  5. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Amen, brother Ed.
     
  6. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    I know I am most out of love with my job when I have to teach whole classes of middle school students who refuse to even attempt the work put before them. I am a reading specialist; normally I work (and love to work) with small groups. A few times a week, though, I have full classes of students who hate everything about reading. I try new things all the time, and they just push back and resist. NOTHING WORKS!!!!!! So that is frustrating and reminds me why I wanted to be a reading specialist, and NOT a classroom teacher. I don't know how teachers do it every day -- not with the classes that follow the rules and do their work, but with the classes where the kids just don't care. That would destroy my passion for teaching.
     
  7. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    For so long as the Fools on High in government and in Dep't of Ed academia let me do my work, my morale will remain as it is: terrific.

    I do see their noses under the tent, though, and stand ready to evacuate at any time.
     
  8. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    At my school, it's all about burnout.

    Budget cuts + class size amendment = everyone is teaching an extra class - what used to be our prep period.

    Prep period is now 40 minutes - the same time we had before to set up our rooms each morning.

    We can have parent conferences scheduled with 24 hour notice. Many of us lose planning or have meetings after school every day of the week. The after school meetings last at least an hour.

    We've implemented Marzano running. Two days of training and we were all set to be superstars... and held accountable to all 61? 62? aspects.

    Administrators have been told to mark us down on our evaluations so they we can show "growth."

    40% of my evaluation is based on FCAT scores.

    But the pacing guide my district gives me says I'm supposed to teach reading 90 minutes a week, vs. 240 for writing. I'm also supposed to read, grade, and return 150 essays by the next class.

    The department budget dried up completely - no supplies.

    The kids are tested to death and constantly whine about taking said "prep" tests for the FCAT.

    And add in the usual things - parent complaints, behavior issues - and we're all just over it.
     
  9. appleaday180

    appleaday180 Rookie

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    I can honestly say that I love my job! But I read that article in the New York Times as well and thought to myself, "It certainly takes a specific person for a specific position." And I bet it is incredibly difficult to find people for certain positions. I try to remain positive, and pray that prospective teachers are as enthusiastic about teaching as I am.
     
  10. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I really love teaching, but I am also lucky to be in a very supportive school, small class sizes, with normally 2 prep periods a day. All the factors need to be in place for it to be successful.
     
  11. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I'm lucky to be in a good district where the students generally care. Test scores aren't a problem, so we don't have the pressure of getting good scores or reviewing for the test. I'm free to set high standards and don't need to pass students that don't deserve to pass.
    Earlier this year, I taught in a difficult district. The students didn't see the value of an education. Test scores were a huge problem, especially for the students I was teaching. (Remedial Math) There was so much pressure that it got stressful. More responsibility and less time to do it. I don't think I would be able to work in a district like that for a long time.
     
  12. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    I love teaching, and I love my district. However, I would be lying if I said that the stress does not get to me. Those days I need to come home, unwind, pray, meditate, and refocus on my blessings.
    In our push to become "competitive" with foreign countries, we are stressing our children so badly through over testing. We are going about it in the wrong ways. No one has the answer, and many districts just grasp for any quick fix. (i.e. Marzano). There are no quick fixes. We can't look backwards ("if I could only teach the way I used to") and we are staring at an uncertain future-reluctantly, I might add.
    I feel bad for the children.
     
  13. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    When I have a day that things are getting to me, it's usually my luck that I get to have an individual student interaction to balance out things. It's the best part of my job, to be able to work with kids one-on-one. Yesterday, I was able to tailor three weeks of work to suit a student who wants to be a park ranger. Today, I explained "Kubla Khan" to a recovering addict, who got it in a way few students have. It made up for the percentage of students who constantly cut my class.
     
  14. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    I'm with chebrutta on a lot of what was contained in his/her post. We're also doing the Marzano nonsense also and our constant prep and practice testing is for the PSSA in Pennsylvania.

    I don't think I can add any more to that post!


    :help:
     
  15. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Yesterday, the best teacher in our school had chest pains and was admitted to the local hospital. Along with other stuff she is overwhelmed by the Marzano crap, pacing guides, tier one tier twos and a ton of other stupid #*$&@# all the rest are buried under now. She is the type of teacher that helps the principal above and beyond what she HAS to do. Throw in the fact of all the budget cuts (cut in pay here in fla) and no raise for four years. Oh yeah, our insurance sucks worse than ever and we pay a ton for it.
    And morale is low. Imagine that.
     
  16. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I love my job but some days I do feel so overwhelmed. I'm a first year teacher with 6 preps. Some weeks I feel like I spend every moment planning. I'm exhausted every day by about 6pm... I miss my horse! I haven't ridden in months! The nice thing is most of my kids truly do care and put in the effort. That's what makes it worth it. I have one class that doesn't care and doesn't try and honestly if all of my classes were like that, I probably would quit!
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Definitely too bad to hear stories like that. Unfortunately, some of that new stuff may actually be good stuff, including for teachers who are good. The problem is that stuff just keeps getting added to the plate, rather than a strategic reorganization with some stuff coming off the plate too.

    For people who implement or promote new systems, that's really a big challenge - new and better ways of doing things are sometimes discarded because they're just seen as "yet another thing to do," which sometimes they are if not implemented correctly.
     
  18. KinderCowgirl

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    I also love my school. I love my admin. I still love teaching (most days ;)). I have never felt as stressed as this year. We too, have an extremely extensive evaluation process-the sheer number of things they are looking for us to demonstrate in every lesson-I don't know how the best teacher in the world could do it effectively. Nothing is ever good enough-it can always be better. That wears on you after awhile. Sometimes you just want to hear that "good job".

    Test scores will count as 50% of our evaluations next year (yes, even for Kinders :eek:). I hate having to teach to a test and struggle very much with what I'm asked to do and what's developmentally appropriate. I just don't have as much fun with the kids as I used to and I do believe that affects your spirit.
     
  19. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Can I just add that I have a great admin, and they're as burnt out as us?

    Reality - thanks. And I am of the female persuasion :)

    Ed - I don't mind Marzano in and of itself - I already use an awful lot of his stuff. But it's supposed to be a three year implementation, and we got two days to figure it out. It's extremely stressful.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I've got to say: this year is a walk in the park compared to last year in my school.

    Aside from worry about 2 colleagues with biopsies pending, we're having a wonderful year!!!! We haven't had a single faculty funeral since August!
     
  21. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Okay, you mentioned Marzano and my blood pressure rose. I have to fill out documentation for every time I use similarities and differences in my teaching, and I have to do so for the next five weeks. Thankfully, I've started noticing I do that a lot, but it is ridiculous and, yes, a morale buster that I have to do this kind of stuff on top of all the other documentation I do.
     
  22. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    The more expectations that get added at the same time budgets are cut the lower the morale will be. If salaries and benefits were cut, but instead raised, morale would rise with the expectations. Those 2 things need to work together not apart.
     
  23. John Lee

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    Mar 8, 2012

     
  24. YoungTeacherGuy

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    Seeing colleagues being laid off, being asked to do more with fewer resources, dealing with increased class sizes, and the major focus on standardized tests are four of several obstacles that teachers are facing (in my humble opinion). :2cents:
     
  25. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I have to share that I am very close to my breaking point. I am having chest pains, sweating...the stress is terribly overwhelming.

    This was my dream... :(
     
  26. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    If I had to pick a number one morale-killer, this would be it. I can't really say it any better myself.

    I would say part of what's mentioned above is due to increased focus on testing- but that's been going on for a very long time and just gotten worse. I have some 3rd graders this year that have made over 3 years growth in the year and a half they've been with me, but if they don't pass the state test none of that will matter- they'll still be labeled as "failures" and I'm still "ineffective" based on how most people want to evaluate learning and teaching. Last year my 3rd graders (my current 4th graders) actually made even more growth than that but many of them were still "partially proficient" on some sections of the state test. It's a very strong belief of mine that test prep is not an intervention, so we don't do any of that in my class. A neighboring school with a very similar population to ours (mostly ELLs and low SES students) basically did prep for the state test the entire year. I knew several teachers that worked there and they were miserable because all they were allowed to teach was test prep. That school raised it's scores from 30 something proficient to 80 something proficient in one year and is being hailed all over as being such an "excellent" school. The governor even came to the school for a day to congratulate them. Yet it's a miserable place to work and learn- oh the irony. 13 out of 17 teachers resigned at the end of last year from this "excellent" school.
     
  27. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I've been teaching for 36 years and seen testing come and go. When the testing became less important, the curriculum became richer and more meaningful.

    Now is the worst I've ever seen it. Part of me wonders if it's not some plan to destroy public education. There's a school nearby that teaching nothing but reading, math and test-taking skills. They brought their test scores up and morale down. The teachers hate it there.
     
  28. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Just another perspective on the view that testing may be the cause: imagine that a person has to undergo a series of tests at a hospital to determine the cause of an underlying medical condition, and that the tests go on for a few months without resolution. Over the course of that time, the patient develops anxiety secondary to all of the stress caused by the medical tests. In this case, would it be appropriate to say that medical testing causes anxiety? If so, would it be appropriate to discontinue to medical testing because it caused anxiety, or to rethink the process and support system of medical testing to mitigate undesired psychosocial side effects?
     
  29. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I typed up a really long list of all the reasons that I am growing tired of my current position, but it made me depressed so I deleted it.

    I'll just say that I'm ready for a change, hopefully still within the world of education.
     
  30. comaba

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    I'm not sure I agree with your analogy, Ed. The anxiety probably isn't caused by the incessant medical tests, but by the lack of resolution regarding the medical problem.

    Now if our government decided that it's necessary for national security to perform monthly psychological tests on every adult citizen and the results could land one in the mental hospital, then I would say that those tests do cause the anxiety.

    I know I'd be worried. :D
     
  31. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think the anxiety comes from multiple sources - agreed, lack of resolution is one area. Anxiety also probably comes from what news may be delivered when the results come in. Anxiety also may come from the way the tests are administered - perhaps the person spends countless hours in and out of hospitals, waiting, undergoing long procedures. I actually see the your analogy as pretty similar to mine in these respects - in both situations, the process may be uncomfortable and painful, and the results may lead to some pretty bad life changes.

    The main difference I see in our analogies in the usefulness of the tests, and usefulness of the evaluation process as a whole. In your situation, the implication is clearly that the process is overreaching and unnecessary. In mine, the thought is that such medical evaluation is crucial.

    Looking back at the original situation - academic testing - I see it as a bit of both. I see assessment and accountability as crucial, but I also see a level of crudeness of the tests as well. In other words, state tests may not be the best way of accomplishing accountability.

    Still, how much of the anxiety related to teacher morale is related to bad testing, as opposed to simply any testing and accountability? In other words, if there were a more accurate or appropriate system of accountability, do folks think that morale would improve? Or, do folks feel that - as long as any system of holding teachers/schools accountable for achievement is in place - morale will continue to be low?
     
  32. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    That's a great question. I think teachers want to be held accountable. We all benefit from a profession that has high standards. The problem with testing is that it's an ineffective way of determining teacher performance.

    Accountability is not the problem. The high-stakes testing is the problem.
     
  33. KinderCowgirl

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    My problem is it's not a series of tests that they are using to judge us. It's one test. I've never been to a specialist that stopped at one, even if it showed them what they were looking for.

    I also have no problem with accountability-but 50% of my effectiveness as a teacher can be measured by student scores on one test? That's just unbelievable to me. As long as that much weight is put on that one test, that's what we'll be teaching-not art or music or socials skills, critical thinking projects-preparation for that test. Which is very sad to me.
     
  34. crayonsandchalk

    crayonsandchalk New Member

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    I live in a country where education is viewed as a last choice if they don't pass the degree they applied for. Very few people see our profession as noble, and people seriously ask me if really want to be a teacher someday. I guess it's part of being a third-world country and all, but how the people in my country view education is very depressing.

    I'm on my sophomore year, and I'm majoring in pre-school education. I know the realities of being a teacher - especially here in the Philippines - you don't get rich in this profession. You get overworked, you do overtime, but none of it will reflect on your paycheck. But should that matter? Should the number of digits on your paycheck matter more than the minds and hearts you mold and touch?
     
  35. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    The problem with your medical analogy, EdEd, is that the medical tests are being used to find and treat/cure a disease, not to measure the effectiveness of the Dr. If the test comes back positive for some ailment, is the Dr. going to be deemed "ineffective"? Will the patient be labeled "dumb"? Will the Dr. then get a lower salary the next year until he gets more patients who are healthy and therefore can be deemed "more effective" as a professional?

    Not to mention the obvious failures behind rating a teacher as effective/ ineffective based on test scores, I would think that one positive result of the recent drive in education to make everything "data driven" is that it would make people realize that you shouldn't make decisions based on one data point. We are constantly having to stall kids in the RtI process because someone didn't take enough data for us to really determine if the intervention was effective. Yet when state test scores come out, everyone automatically makes a snap judgment about that student (and their teacher) without looking at anything else that student has done. I had an extremely low 3rd grade student (almost non-reader) who passed the 3rd grade reading test last year. He's extremely intelligent (has dyslexia and a severe articulation disorder) and was able to use different clues and strategies on the test to get a good score even though he literally couldn't read a lot of it. For the essay questions, he would match the words in the question with the section of the story that talked about that part, and then proceed to write a giant paragraph with those words from the story. For the mc, he would choose the answer choice that had the most words from the story from it. On the other hand, one of my struggling readers who can read almost at grade level but just doesn't have as much "common sense" as this student does was a few points shy of passing and ended up "partially proficient." When people looked at those scores, they automatically assumed the first student was doing awesome in school and that the 2nd student needed more help, when in fact it was the complete opposite.
     
  36. knitter63

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    Hmmm...must be an Ohio thing. We are also focusing on similarities and differences! I think I hate Marzano.:whistle:
     
  37. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    JustMe, hang in there. What you are experiencing sounds very much like my panic attacks. Talk to your doctor about the way your body is reacting-he/she may be able to help. Yoga also works great!
     
  38. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    For me (and I'm a first year teacher) I think it's just that there is SO much pressure, especially in the testing grades for students to perform that I feel sometimes no matter how hard I try not to, some of that is being projected out onto my students which is making things stressful for all of us. On top of that I feel like even if you're the best teacher in the world and all of your lessons hit home there's so much that is out of our control but we're still being held accountable for or scrutinized for that it turns people off.
     
  39. Myrisophilist

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    I don't think this has to do with being in a third-world country. I get the same attitude here in the US. I'm dedicated to my future profession, students, and subject, and I am an excellent student, but whenever I tell someone what I'm majoring in, I can see their thoughts on their faces. Why would anyone want to be a teacher? I wish the profession had more respect, but all I can do is work to show the public that good teachers exist and are valuable to society.
     
  40. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I honestly think that Marzano has a lot of good ideas and would probably be nauseated by how his work is used. Every now and then, I imagine Marzano swooping into a professional development meeting, demanding that his book be used for good, not trifling matters, and then take off like Superman through the roof, on to the next school. If nothing else, it raises my personal morale.
     
  41. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I can see your challenge to my analogy - if we expand the analogy to ongoing treatment with medical tests, that may bring things back in line. In that case, ongoing medical tests would be used to identify progress of the patient, as well as doctor's effectiveness. To my knowledge, doctor's are held accountable for their performance based on what would be expected - if a particular doctor's cure rate was substantially lower than "industry norm," I suspect the doctor would be in danger of either lower salary or termination. So yes, I suspect that if a doctor failed to achieve industry standard results, s/he might be labeled as "ineffective," despite the fact that many other variables might contribute to a patient's success rate. Would you go to an oncologist that cured cancer at a much lower rate than other oncologists, given all else being equal (e.g., accepting same type of patients)?

    To challenge a few of your thoughts in your comments - there is no stated purpose of any state test I'm aware to label kids as "dumb" or other otherwise "not intelligent." Any such labeling would be done by educators acting in an unprofessional an inaccurate capacity. It would be the same as saying that an AIDS medical test resulted in the discrimination AIDS patients have faced over the years.

    Second, you indicated that the only way a doctor could be deemed "more effective" is by "getting more patients who are healthy." I know you probably didn't mean this, but this kind of thinking is one of the biggest issues in education today - that kids come naturally able or unable to learn - that a teacher can only be effective if s/he "gets more patients (students) who are healthy (smart/able to learn)," as if the doctor (teacher) is unable to make an impact on the disease (academic skill level).

    Again, from our interactions on this forum over the past year, you are the last person I'd suspect of having that viewpoint at heart, but it's out there, and it creeps into our vocabulary and conversations.

    Overall, I'm not trying to say that a teacher owns 100% of the variance related to academic progress, and I'm very much against using a singular test, as you mentioned, to gauge effectiveness. So, going back to my question a few posts ago....

    Do you think that low teacher morale would persist if evaluations were changed, but still included accountability for performance? Or, do you think the correlation between low morale and accountability would persist simply because of the mere presence of accountability?
     
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