From working beyond contracted hours to struggling to help students amid the amount of non-classroom work they must do, teachers share their thoughts about the profession itself.

Teachers love teaching. They love their students. They teach for a variety of reasons. 

And it seems many teachers may be doing the job they love in less-than-acceptable working conditions.  

Of the 2,751 teachers surveyed by Teachers for Texas, 115 said that “working during non-contract hours” was an issue that caused them not to be at peace in their jobs. Many teachers come in early, stay late, and work on weekends. And putting in the extra hours is expected by administration.  

Teachers are required to attend parent meetings (scheduled in the evening), staff meetings, tutoring, after-school activities, and sporting events. Sixty teachers said there just isn’t enough time to get through everything that is required.  

A teacher from a small West Texas district said she was working “12-hour days and being paid state minimum,” while others who were “not doing a good job but cannot be fired” earned more because they have “been doing it longer.”

“It is heartbreaking to me,” she added. “I feel hopeless in a profession that I truly love.” 

Teachers said lack of respect is an issue for the profession, and 73 educators who participated in the survey said it is affecting their work environment. Educators mentioned a lack of respect (from parents, students, and administrators) 218 times in the survey.

Teachers feel their hands are tied when it comes to doing what is right for their students. Seventy teachers stated the lack of teacher autonomy is an issue, and many mentioned mandated lesson plans that do not allow for changes that could help their students. If teachers are unable to individualize their lessons, students are apt to fall behind.  

A teacher from Dallas said, “[W]e don’t have autonomy in our classroom for teaching, even though we are the ones that know the needs of our students. Every year, the district implements new ideas that don’t work, and that makes the STAAR stress more stressful.”

Another 55 teachers said they have to purchase their own classroom supplies and students’ school supplies. Why are districts not paying for classroom necessities? Should they be? If districts are not supporting the classrooms, where is that money going? And if teachers are buying school supplies for students, where are the supplies donated to school supply drives?  

Districts are here to ensure students are educated and be good stewards for the community—but teachers are being stretched to the breaking point. Concerned citizens can ask their local districts about supporting the classrooms.

This article is part of a Texas Scorecard series on how teachers say they want to fix education.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.