Teacher Optimism Plummets

Hey friends,
Saw this on Yahoo News today. The gist is that teacher optimism and morale have dropped significantly in just one year. And it wasn’t that great to begin with. Midwest teachers are doing better than other areas of the country. Many teachers feel undervalued, are seeing higher needs for their students that are not being met, and feel an increase in pressure to do more with less.

It’s National Kindness day so let’s all try to make this job a little easier by being kind to each other.

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“The report shows that teacher optimism has fallen dramatically, from 50% in 2018 to 34% in 2019.”

I’m really curious as to why the huge dip over the course of one year. The article seems to point mostly towards low compensation as the heart of the issue. That doesn’t explain this dip in optimism to me, because teacher compensation is such a long-standing issue. I’ve got to believe there’s more to the story than that. I’m wondering about the overall political climate both within and outside of education. In the past year, a series of American Public Media reports have pointed out the massive flaws in the way schools have been teaching reading for decades. I’m wondering if this reporting and other threads of conversation around education and how we’ve been “doing things wrong” are contributing to low morale.

Yep. I am thinking about Greta Thunberg who doesn’t see the point of going to school if she has no future to prepare for. I think there are a lot of teachers in that category as well. What are we preparing them for? How do we prepare them for more gun violence; climate change; the mass extinction event that we’re in the middle of; rise of hate crimes; etc. It’s a little hard to tell students that credits and the ACT are important when this is the reality we live with.

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I agree. They kind of lost an opportunity to dig deeper.

I’d say because of cuts to counselors over the past few years have a large impact on morale as well as mental health burden on teachers and social workers. Its a problem across the nation.

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In response to Ben and Jon’s inquiries-it is my belief that the educational system has not made the necessary changes to meet the needs of the current students we serve. I agree that there is more to the story than what was presented in the Yahoo article.

How do we meet the educational needs and desires of our current students by making sure the curriculum we teach students is directly connected to our changing world? Are we just teaching to memorize when we can google any date or fact we need? I would then connect that to, how are we meeting the psychological, safety, love/relationships, esteem/self-love needs of students (Hierarchy or Learning Pyramid) so that we can reach the top tier related to learning (motivation, learning, creativity, problem-solving, memory, curiosity)? We know these bottom parts of the pyramid need to be addressed, taught and fostered before we are able to connect to part of our brain responsible for the higher level skills (PFC) associated with learning.

So, bringing it back to the article, I am curious, how are we meeting those same needs with staff? How is the educational system addressing the psychological, safety, love/relationships, esteem/self-love needs of staff so they can deliver academics to their students from a place of modeling and creativity/problem-solving/curiosity? Students grow up to be adults. If our current population of students doesn’t even have a system set up to focus on their foundational skills, how can we expect that our staff have had access to and explicit teaching of them when they haven’t been taught in schools, whether middle/high school or higher ed? This is where my mind travels to when I see stats or reports about teacher burnout and the feeling of being undervalued. If staff’s needs aren’t being met, how can we expect continual output of support, love, compassion, academics, problem-solving from our staff without also filling those needs for staff? I believe we can’t expect that.
Strategy 2 is doing a lot of work around these topics/ideas but how do we at site levels foster connectiveness, support and skill building in a way that is authentic and supports our staff so they can support students? This requires a different lens. Working up the pyramid instead of working top-down.

I believe that the above connects to Jon’s statements too related to the Greta’s of the world and our staff who feel that we are not adequately preparing our students for the real world and addressing the needs of our community and planet.

Here’s an article related to the development of SEL skills/cultural competence in staff and how important it is to focus there to build capacity. I believe this is a step at working toward addressing teacher burnout and building resilience and optimism for the teaching profession.
(https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SEL-Trends-7-11182019.pdf)

Great conversation. Thank you for starting this thread.

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I was talking to my daughter (junior in HS) a few weeks ago and casually asked her what she thought the world would be like in 100 years. She replied that she didn’t think we’d still be around, mainly due to climate issues. She’s super optimistic, hard-working, and works hard for all sorts of causes, and it kind of floored me that she had so little faith in humanity.

For her, I think much of that negativity stems from the current political power structure, which is everything she’s not. So she looks at that and sees little hope for the planet.

Regarding teachers, I wonder if the situation is much the same? I think Betsy DeVos is perceived by a majority of teachers as a largely unpopular political leader for education, and it’s been a wearing few years for the minority viewpoint.

I also wonder if some of the larger teacher strikes in some of the southern states hit this survey hard as well. There have been big stories in major magazines talking about how hard some teachers in some states have it.

We’re pretty insulated from DeVos; but we definitely have to deal with a more anxious student population. It’s just worse for them then it ever has been. That’s a pretty tough dose of reality from your daughter. Heartbreaking.

I was thinking today about the coming changes to academic standards in MN for Science and ultimately ELA. I find that depressing as well. We get these K-12 standards handed down to us and no group of kindergarteners ever gets to experience the full scope of a K-12 pathway through those standards. They are changed before we even know if the full breadth was worth it, or effective. The lack of expertise that goes into Ed. policy from the federal, state, local level is astounding. I’m kind of amazed it even holds together. Tradition is strong.

I’ve hopeful that as our daughter gets older she’ll see places and examples where people are doing amazing things. Much of the news today seems to center on expending a lot of effort to prevent bad things from happening, and I think she sees that and concludes that all we’re doing is slowing down the degree to which things are falling apart, or even worse, that we’re simply failing to stop bad things from happening. So yeah, I’m hopeful she’ll grown into a greater sense of optimism. I feel pretty confident she will.

Based on some of the research I reviewed when working on my license and degree (3 years ago), the number one reason for teachers leaving the profession was due to a lack of administrative support. Failing to feel like there was a team approach, all dedicated to the success of the students was a big cause of disenchantment and lack of optimism. Money was not even in the top 5 out of 10 reasons. As someone noted, teacher pay has been an issue for so long, someone concerned about that would have been most unlikely to enter the profession.
Thanks to all for your good thoughts shared here!

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