THE 2022 TEXAS TEACHER ONLINE FORUM:
Persistent Problems and a Path Forward
This report amplifies Texas public school teachers’ experiences, joys, and frustrations with the teaching profession. At campuses across the state, teachers report deep challenges, leavened by visions of improved practices – and, for many, the unique, intangible rewards of successful teacher-student relationships.
Twenty-six public school teachers participated in five days of moderated discussion in online forums conducted for the Charles Butt Foundation, including 14 who were certified traditionally, in undergraduate and graduate programs, and a separate group of 12 with alternative certifications. Their comments add color and depth to the results of a separate, representative, random-sample survey of Texas teachers also produced for the Foundation.
Among key takeaways:
- Echoing results from the 2022 statewide survey, several participants were on the verge of leaving the profession. Those with low job satisfaction described high stress, heavy workloads, frustration with non-teaching duties, long hours, and poor pay and benefits.
- The presence or lack of administrative support emerges as a key variable in teacher retention. Comments make clear that proactive campus administrators can put in place effective teacher support systems that encourage retention. Where such support is lacking, frustrations run especially high.
- Related to these administrative supports is the presence or absence of a positive work environment, the product of both effective leadership and collegial cooperation among teachers.
- Better pay and benefits are central to teachers’ concerns. However, one proposed approach – differential incentive pay – raises concerns about fomenting rivalries.
- Differences are evident in the experiences of those with traditional versus alternative certifications, with the latter feeling they lacked essential classroom time to be adequately prepared for their first year of teaching. Regardless, teachers across the board described broad challenges and varied levels of support in their first year, pointing to areas for more effective induction support.
- Mentoring is one such area: It was taken seriously and well-organized for some teachers when they joined the profession, haphazard and subpar for others, leading to substantial frustrations as they tried to learn the ropes. Providing well-designed mentoring programs is one of several examples of needed administrative supports. Others include opportunities for meaningful teacher involvement in policy and process formation, efforts to recognize and reduce administrative burdens and provide adequate resources, and effective student disciplinary programs.
- Beyond structural changes, teachers – with comments that are sometimes emotional – make clear their need for recognition of the pressures they experience and appreciation for their efforts. Though soft support can not take the place of required structural changes, empathy is an essential element of success in a stressful work environment.
What Texans believe matters greatly to us. While some of our efforts are regional, much of our impact spans the huge and diverse state, and we value voices and experiences from every community.