Why Teachers Suck …

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one question:  “How has education changed since you first started teaching?”  A week later I received six, single-spaced pages.

When Susan started teaching thirty-one years ago, she had six class periods (about twenty-five kids per class) and two “preps” (subjects to teach).  “We were expected to do all the usual things” like developing lessons, grading homework and tests, handwriting grade cards, and contacting parents “if and when necessary.”

(That last part made me snicker.  Teachers will get the joke.)

A lot has changed over three decades, and though they haven’t broken her, many of those changes have bent Susan to the point where she is ready to retire.

While Tim condemns Susan as America’s problem, her own words reveal why she and teachers like her suck …


Gentle reader, teachers suck …

  1. … because of paperwork

Reading through Susan’s career experiences, one word kept surfacing:  “paperwork.”

We have shackled our educators to a paper trail that, according to Susan, “takes hours and does nothing to help the students.”  Her state now requires documented learning objectives for every single student, including “all the steps to achieve that goal.”  The same legislation saddles each administrator in her school with the task of 120 classroom observations, “with the requisite pages of paperwork every time.  The teachers also have to submit paperwork for each formal observation.”


“All forms must be submitted by 3pm.”

Papers, papers everywhere.

Susan’s school also has a mandatory mentoring program for new teachers.  Not a bad thing.  However—you guessed it—it comes with an avalanche of forms.  Both mentor and mentee spend hours preparing and submitting documentation instead of doing what they’ve been hired to do—teaching our kids.

Friends, teachers have always been successfully mentored.  In my first year of teaching, I received tons of help from experienced educators who actually had time to share their wisdom with me … because they weren’t buried in bureaucracy.

Susan sees new teachers “trying to wrap their heads around their preps, classroom management, fostering relationships, and learning the ART of teaching,” but that’s hard to do because they must submit “a huge portfolio filled with hours of paperwork.”  Meanwhile, some wizard waits behind the curtain to evaluate those documents and decide that young educator’s fate.  Some teachers fail only because “they don’t play the paperwork game well.”

(Also, just so we’re clear, digital submissions might save some trees, but it doesn’t save our educators.)

  1. … because of unfunded mandates.

“Our politicians are fond of making laws about education without any input from the people in the classrooms,” laments Susan.  The result?  Things like state and federally mandated testing.


“Great!  More help from legislators!”

“Since we don’t trust teachers to actually teach, we have ‘accountability’.”  Yes, her sarcasm is delicious.  “Our kids spend hours [weeks, I would argue] testing rather than learning.”

As an employer, I see the fallout every day.  We have a generation of high school graduates who’ve been taught to worship some standardized test score but can’t think their way out of a corner.  But we can’t pin that on teachers.  They’re the ones left holding the empty bag dumped on them by short-sighted legislators.

Susan’s school just completed another round of mandatory testing.  It came with a hefty price tag.

“Because these tests are all online, our district had to retrofit each high school (there are three) with more data ports / WIFI / whatever you want to call it, to be able to handle hundreds of computers needing bandwidth at the same time.

“Where did the money come from?  Locally, of course.  We had to spend our district’s money on a state/federal mandate without any recompense.  Add that to the loss of learning time and it’s a big, fat lose-lose.”

A buzz-topic right now is school vouchers.  In a nutshell, vouchers allow parents to receive a tax credit equal to what might be spent on their child’s education.  They can use that money to send their kid to any school they want.  However, the money always comes from schools which are already underfunded.

On the subject of vouchers, we’ve got to change our perspective.  You’re not paying taxes to educate your own kids.  You’re paying to educate your neighbor’s kids, and that’s a terrific investment, because who wants dumb neighbors?

Friends, our educators are constantly being required to do more with less, and it has to stop.

  1. … because of litigation from parents

“I don’t know what kind of catastrophic event would have had to happen in 1986 to cause a parent to sue the school,” Susan writes, but schools are now legal tinderboxes.

Schools are filled with letters and numbers: IEP, 504, ELL, SLO, ESL, IDEA … the list goes on.  (Google them if you don’t recognize them.)  They aim to provide a quality education to every child, no matter their circumstance, deficiencies (or giftedness), mental or physical challenges, etc.  These are all good things, but they come with a heavy cost and the classroom teacher pays the bill, spending an excessive amount of time accommodating students who come in with these legally-binding documents.


Administrators putting out fires:  “Look, another lawsuit!”

I just talked with an educator who’s dreading the upcoming school year.  He’s already under assault by a parent waving around her kid’s unrealistic 51-page IEP.  This guy knows, however, that if one letter of that document isn’t followed with precise satisfaction, mom will file a lawsuit (as she has before).

Susan says lawsuits are now “common place,” and schools usually settle out of court to avoid expensive legal battles.  One student in her school was recently caught selling her mom’s prescription pills at school.

“Cut and dried, right?”  Not so fast.  “The parents said it was the school’s fault that she stole her mom’s meds and sold them because the school didn’t diagnose her with ADHD.”  The parents filed a lawsuit and the school district settled out of court.

“This happens all the time.”

Teachers have to second guess everything they do and say, and the ever-looming lawsuit threat only dims their brilliance as educators.

  1. … because of expectations from a broken society.

Teachers no longer simply teach their subjects.  Our schools are now responsible for raising children.  Not many kids learn basic “life skills” and attitudes at home, so we expect teachers to do what moms and dads won’t (or can’t).  Oh, and they’re also supposed to make sure the kids get fed.

Too many schools now have food / toiletry / clothing pantries for kids whose homes can’t provide basic necessities.  These are run by volunteers … and teachers, of course.

We ask teachers to teach, feed, clothe, and parent our children, but refuse them the resources, support, and time to do the job.  Instead, we shame them for not saving our fractured society.

“Not only are schools and teachers expected to fix all of society’s ills, we are also expected to turn out a fantastic product,” Susan says.  “It would be nice if it could be remembered that we are working with human capital, not with a product whose outcome we can control completely.”

And therein lies the biggest key to understanding why teacher’s suck …

Our teachers end up parenting a lot of kids, and that role comes with a costly emotional and psychological investment.  Teachers are often caring for students who are functioning orphans—and they do it for countless kids.  While they’re teaching their preps, answering emails and phone calls from angry parents, trying to ignore what some yahoo has said about them on social media, and filling out an insane amount of hoop-jumping documentation to help some politician get re-elected, they’re also trying to get the girl who’s been raped into counseling, making sure the kid out of rehab stays clean and on track, and trying to tenderly engage that discipline problem who’s now living on the streets because his parents are both in jail.

Friends, that’s reality.

You still want to know why teachers suck …?

Let me finish the sentence.

Teachers suck … it up and keep doing what they do because they love our kids.

They suck … it up and keep fighting the good fight because they are professionals with more heart, grit, and passion than anyone I know.

Teachers bleed for our nation’s children on a daily basis, and it’s time we unshackle them from bureaucratic nonsense and give them the resources and support to do the job they are called—and trained—to do.


“Bursting with humor, refreshing honesty, and wisdom …”
A MUST-READ for every parent!

Now available from Simon & Schuster / Howard Books.  Order Now.


325 thoughts on “Why Teachers Suck …

  1. Pingback: Why Teachers Suck… | Gotta Do The Right Thing

  2. I am a primary teacher, and I can attest to this all being just as true in Prek as it is in high school. With me, I spent half my paycheck each month purchasing supplies and items for my students due to my district being underfunded. And if a parent so much as gets offended by lipstick shade, then it is even more paperwork! I know I’m not the best teacher in the world, but I often like the worst due to constant testing! I worry my students don’t know anything! Last year, I had 17 students, and I had to test weekly to get every single one of them complete before the 6 weeks ended! 4 and 5 year-olds should be learning through play and exploring their world, not tested constantly! This year I’ve moved to a private school so I can actually teach! Until legislation changes, most public school teacher’s hands are tied.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 17 students? Wow…I can’t recall having less than 24 at any time. You are right about the regulations tieing teachers’ hands though. The solution much as Bob will not want to hear this, is to back off on forcing kids that do not want to be there to attend. If they are being disruptive, they need to just go home and be mom and dad’s problem. Parent’s should not be forced to have kids in class if they feel they are ill. They should not have to have a doctor note. Classes should be recorded for live or later viewing like in collage and paperwork available online. If a child is ill or misbehaving, it should be on them and the parent to see the work is done from home. Disruptive kids should not be in class. Kids who are not mentally ready to participate and instead act like maniacs should not be attending. Schools are underfunded, that is true. A huge chunk of that is due to the smaller class sizes that were pushed through in recent years. The states made changed they cannot fund. We need the parents and kids to be onboard. If they don’t want an education, don’t get one. Teachers should not be held liable for kids not wanting to learn. If the classes are recorded and lesson plans are appropriate, then it is on the kid. My daughter is doing class online now and it is wonderful! Small schools can have quality teachers this way. Her Spanish teacher at the local high school was terrible. Online though she learned a lot and is now having conversations with Spanish speaking people in real life. The work is harder, but it is relevant and not busy work. When kids are in class the teacher often has to have busy work as some kids get done fast and then cause trouble.


      • Or how about flipping that around? Shouldn’t we be working with the students needing the most help and assistance? It makes better sense to have the students that don’t need the hand holding home than the ones that do!


      • I love Gatto. The greatest irony is that he’s won a bunch of teaching awards while making these harsh reality checks.


      • Totally agree with the sickness thing — esp if my kid’s out 2 days for vomiting. Why should I drag them to a dr for that? Do you panic and seek medical attention if you have a stomach bug for 2 days then get better? The disruption thing is harder, though… where do you draw the line? For example, we had a student with Tourette’s… he was trying hard… surely HE should get to attend school? If He wants to learn and socialize and he truly can’t help it?


  3. i am a student and i hate a teacher named ms.dere she gives us 13 pages of homework every night and if she does not like you she will lower your grade and completely ignores me and recently i said blah blah blah in her class when she was talking i did that because she was reading a paper we had ugh so she made me sit outside of class for the rest of the of class which was 45 minute wait for me she think she is smart but she is not we just finished a book hen she made us read another one and she does not teach well no punctuation that is why teachers suck


    • Bob, it seems you spend so much time hating your teacher that you aren’t learning anything. You misspelled half of the words and don’t seem to know any capitalization rules. Spend more time paying attention in class and less time disrupting class, and maybe everyone in your class can learn.


      • Well Mrs Teacher,

        Wow! Are you not aware that 1 in 5 students have a reading/writing disability?
        And that too many of these students are being left behind in the classroom by their teachers?
        This in a nutshell is exactly why teachers are not getting the respect they think they should be receiving!!!! YOU SEEM TO THINK THAT IT IS OK TO SHAME a STUDENT for NOT HAVING BEEN TAUGHT LITERACY SKILLS!!!!


    • Bob, I would have called your mom and sent your happy ass home. I have no idea how old you are. If you are in any grade above 3rd then your teachers have all been pretty terrible, considering how you write. If the class is so bad, you have your folks withdraw you and transfer or take classes online. I have done that with my kids. You have no right to disrupt class with your “Blah, blah, blah”. You are the reason so many good teacher quit. You can’t teach with kids in class who think it is fine to cop an attitude in class. Behave respectfully, document the problems, and have your parents go to the office and get you out of that class. Don’t ruin it for everyone acting like a spoiled little brat.


  4. i am a student and i hate a teacher named ms.dere she gives us 13 pages of homework every night and if she does not like you she will lower your grade and completely ignores me and recently i said blah blah blah in her class when she was talking i did that because she was reading a paper we had
    ugh so she made me sit outside of class for the rest of the of class which was 45 minute wait for me she think she is smart but she is not we just finished a book hen she made us read another one and she does not teach well no punctuation that is why teachers suck reading is bad for your eyes and you smell like hot dog water


  5. It is always a good thing to try to understand all viewpoints of a situation. However, this just seems like someone complaining about how hard their job is. I’m pretty sure almost anyone that has a job would share this same viewpoint. Every job has it’s ups and downs. Teachers do not work harder than everyone else. All jobs are hard. Remember teachers,as you whine about your job, you chose your profession.


    • Many teachers would argue that this profession chose us. There are many professions that are more difficult than teaching, but there are few professions where workers are consistently criticized. For example, firefighters don’t get lambasted every time they put out a fire, or for the time spent at work preparing for firefighting. No one would dream of saying their job is easy, or that they should be paid only for the time they’re actually fighting fires but not for the prep they do on their equipment and physical training. The emotional toll is taxing that no matter how great a teacher is they will always get the message that it wasn’t enough.


      • Funny choice. Most firefighters in the USA are unpaid volunteers. They work for free. Most rural fire departments have 1 or 2 paid employees,Your taxes pay for training and equipment, but not for staff (except probably the chief and maybe an assistant) I was a volunteer with our fire department for years, as was my husband and my dad. All unpaid. My son’s best friend is a firefighter and EMT and spent all summer fighting forest fires (that they do get paid for).Why do people not ever do any research before they make these sweeping statements? You should have compared to police…but oh, wait, they DO have everyone criticizing them. Police work nights, weekends and holidays. So do the guys at the power company who repair the lines during outages. Super dangerous job. Middle of the night during horrible snow storms.


    • These aren’t normal conditions: I had 42 students, 32 desks and 25 books. I worked 60-80 hour weeks to keep up with 210 students daily – without an aide. Without a full-time nurse, we had to practice giving each other saline shots in case students with allergies were stung. With only one district psychologist, my student who was hallucinating never received help and remained in class disturbing others. Etc. That’s at a school of average means.

      I don’t know even one electrician, banker, general contractor, lawyer, etc. that has loads this high or circumstances more complicated.


      • Actually, most jobs that pay decently are this complicated. And salaried employees work 60 hours or more. All year long. With few days off compared to school employees. They also work late, weekends and nights depending on the job. I have to ask for vacation time to see my daughter’s concerts since I work till 8pm most nights. There is no way you practiced giving each other saline shots in case you had to epi a student, that is not how epi training works. Epi injections are done using a special injector, that is why they are so crazy expensive. Staff in public libraries are trained to give injections for drug overdoses, as well as how to defibrillate people who have a heart attack. We call the police for domestic violence, often with the victim standing at the circulation desk as the abuser waits outside the doors. Or even confronts them and us inside. We have degrees similar to classroom teachers but get paid far less. We deal with drug addicts and the mentally disabled all day. So do law enforcement as well as pretty much any public servant.

        I did your job for 15 years in a very poor area of a large city. But I have done much harder jobs for far less pay. The situation you describe is not a school of average means. If you teach in the USA the largest class size allowed that I can find, unless you teach PE or voc tech, is 32 students in high school in Texas. So I am super curious where you teach, as what you are claiming violates so many laws on so many levels it isn’t even funny. So you are either a big old troll, or you are exaggerating to make a point. I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but I just can’t help it….


    • A recent Gallup poll says over 85% of workers in the USA hate their jobs. I have done many jobs, taught for 15 years. My current job in a library is fun, but the pay is pathetic. Most of us hate the job, or hate the pay, or hate the benefits. Teachers have it better than most. If my degree wasn’t outdated I’d go back. It did often really, really stink. At least the pay and benefits are good. Plus when teachers whine, everyone feels sorry for them. We just need to change the whole education system. If families are accountable, we can go back to one teacher with 30 kids. Most can be online and self-paced after grade school. This bit about so many kids being disabled is bull. Maybe if parents stopped handing toddlers the stupid cell phone in the store to shut them up and talked to the kids and read to them, we wouldn’t have all these problems. We have too many people for the jobs we have. If folks stopped having so many kids we would all be way better off and companies would have to compete for workers again. Better one happy, healthy middle-class child than 5 underemployed, miserable ones. Seems the kids with issues are always from a big family with more kids with issues. If you have 2 “Learning disabled” kids, maybe there is something in your genes and you need to stop having more. If you are struggling in life and can’t stay in a good relationship, maybe you need to take care of yourself and not have babies. People are creating their own problems and dragging everyone else down with them. Being in school is horribly stressful for the “normal” kids since the teachers are always dealing with the problem ones with kid gloves. Special education is no longer kids with actual disabilities, now it is all behavior problems.


  6. If teachers are held to a higher standard, it’s because they should be. They mold the minds of children, shaping them to be the adults they eventually become. When I look back on my early school days, I often think how different my life would be had I a teacher who was compassionate, and kind, instead of a disciplinarian.

    The problem is, I suspect for a lot of teachers, teaching is just a job, not a vocation. They forget what it’s like to be a student, to live with the pressure of succeeding, oblivious to the fact they may be adding to their student’s anxiety.


  7. (Most) Teachers Suck!
    Not all mind you. The ones that don’t complain, get their job done, improve the lives of the children they teach, and do so with a smile on their face. They rock, and I personally thank you! How can I make your life easier.
    Those other ones though… and you know who you are, the ones that read this article and immediately start jumping on the silly points made here as if they aren’t something that every single other person has to deal with in their own daily working life. Do the world a favor and cut us a break. We are quite frankly tired of hearing it!
    Let me explain…
    Paperwork: In what world would paperwork cause a teacher to suck? Paperwork is simple, mundane, but necessary. Every job has paperwork to differing degrees, and it all sucks, but we all do it.

    Unfunded Mandates: Not going to agree here either. Your classroom is full, and so are so many others. Yet there are still teachers that find a way to make that work. Why can’t you? Stop complaining about the problem, and “google” for a solution. Guess what, your not the first one with that problem, and if there is nothing you can do to change it, change the way you see the problem.

    Litigation from Parents: Boy going 0 for 3 here for viable excuses on the suck. Every job has the threat of litigation. Even the lowest wage workers knows to put out a sign that the floor is wet or… litigation, and that is at the Minimum wage line. Is there more ways to identify that a child is special, or needs extra attention? Sure. Is it draining, unfun, and a drain on your energy. Surprise! IT IS A JOB!

    Broken Society: Ugh… boy… Yeah, Make America Great Again… Oh wait, it wasn’t great back then either. Well, it probably comes as a shock, but society has always been broken, messy and complicated. It is run by humans, and we are all imperfect. Always have been, and always will be. But not every imperfection is Furthermore, i posit that it is more the teachers themselves that have caused this issue. Complaining that you expect those things, and whining that you aren’t paid enough (have so much time off that it is appalling to ever hear that cross a single teacher’s lips).

    Is your job difficult? Yes
    Is your job the most difficult job in the world? No
    Should you quit and find another job because people won’t bow down and kiss your feet for raising society up? Yes… If you feel that way.
    Should you quit because you can’t afford your job? Yes, but good luck finding more pay doing anything else. You’re not really qualified to do most jobs. You complain about the paperwork that most people have to do as the standard part of their job, so finding a job with less is going to be tough… Finding a high paying job with a higher income is going to be tougher. You complain about long hours, but have the most time off of any profession (not including those salaried guys that work 50-80 hours per week, every week). You expect everyone to treat you like your job is the most important job in the world, when it just isn’t…. You don’t really fit any job better than you do a teacher, so stop complaining and seeing the glass half full. It is full!
    Are there too many kids in your classroom? Nope. Try to imagine how you would handle double that amount. It can be done, and very successfully as well, and as our world population continues to rise, we will be looking at that as a real possibility in the near future. Find a solution.
    Last thought. If you really want to teach, and be the change that you want to see in the world. Society can only change if we all make the effort to push. Push yourself to stop looking at your issues as problems, and see them as opportunities. Be the change that you want to see in the world!


  8. Read “Against School” by John Taylor Gatto.
    It will take you 15 minutes.
    You will understand why you are reviled afterwords… you are a bootlicker who not only gets screwed over by tries to turn kids into more of your ilk.


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