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What Do Teachers Want for 2024


By many accounts, 2023 was the smoothest year in education settings since the pandemic began in 2020. While any progress is encouraging, teachers will likely agree with the sentiment that more change needs to occur to make life in schools more sustainable in the upcoming year. The question is, what would be the most helpful in moving the needle in the right direction? While making pie-in-the-sky wish lists and hoping they come to pass might not be a wise approach for anyone who is feeling frustrated, it is more productive to identify goals that could be achieved over time, even if getting there is a process that will take commitment and dedication from all educators, especially the school and district leaders who make policy decisions.

Enough Time

When we think about how precious planning periods can be for getting work done, it might be less polarizing than expected to ask teachers what they would rather have: more time, or more money. Most people go to work to get their tasks completed, but teaching doesn’t work that way. Any non-instructional time is usually taken up with team planning, meeting with students, or covering classes for absent teachers. In a job where eating lunch or using the bathroom presents a significant challenge, it is hardly surprising that teachers ask for more time that can be allocated for supporting students. Time might be a hot commodity, but there are steps that can be taken toward making the most of each day. For example, building better structures for class coverage in the event of an emergency is a move that can help to protect teacher time, or resolving to limit interruptions to instruction can save classes from trying to play a frantic game of catch-up.

Teacher Pay and Benefits

More than ever, teacher pay is at crisis levels, with what this report from the Economic Policy Institute pinpoints as pay existing at “26.4% less than other similarly educated professionals in 2022—the lowest level since 1960.” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, teachers need to be paid more if they’re going to continue working in conditions that are highly demanding in every way: physically, mentally and emotionally. Depending on where teachers work geographically as well as whether they are in the public or private sector, salaries and benefits are widely varied. 

In addition, cost of living needs are often not taken into consideration enough and prevent teachers from living near where they work. If an already complicated job becomes harder because of a difficult commute, a lack of access to optimal healthcare, or a struggle to make ends meet, a frequent result is that teachers leave the profession to work in fields that are less demanding with commensurate or higher pay. And in some teaching positions (particularly outside of public education), contracts are only granted on a year-to-year basis, which also brings up concerns around job security. Essentially, teacher pay is not simply about getting more money. Rather, it is about how teachers are able to live and work, day in and day out, as whole and healthy individuals.

Respect and Understanding

Teachers are dedicated to helping students, but it can be hard to remain in the classroom when there is such a high level of misunderstanding or denigration of instructional practice. The demands of teaching can be difficult to stomach when people belittle the profession in broadly sweeping generalizations. The old, loathsome adage that “those who can’t, teach” has taken on the implication of accepted truth in the eyes of American society. So many lay people want to be armchair experts rather than listen to what teachers say that kids need. To compound matters, teachers in certain states are being attacked with words like “indoctrination” or “grooming” for trying to teach the content of their courses. When the act of education becomes politicized and threatened (a sign of democracy in danger), fewer teachers want to remain under scrutiny in a situation that could become dangerous.

Resources and Support 

It is unrealistic to expect that teachers find ways to support students without the necessary resources. As Mark Perna writes in Forbes, “I can’t think of a time when education policy was crafted primarily with teachers in mind. Most of the time, educational policy is built around students and what they need to be successful—usually resulting in more burdens placed on their teachers to make it happen. Unfortunately, this misses the fact that students can’t succeed when their teachers are struggling.” 

If kids are going to get the support they need, systems and structures that make it easier for teachers to do their jobs and take important strides forward need to be implemented to enact meaningful change. For example, if we look at the nationwide attendance crisis, it’s not enough to ask teachers to do their part to create meaningful, engaging instruction, though that is clearly important. With such large percentages of students no longer attending school on a regular basis, it falls with education leaders to consider which policies will be most effective to make it easier for families to get kids to school. If students do not have the best materials available for instruction and teachers do not have support in areas like curriculum and pedagogy, there is no possible way to move schools forward in a way that benefits large numbers of kids.

School years don’t begin in January, but this transitional time still provides an opportunity to consider what teachers need. As too many qualified educators leave the profession in record numbers, they are often not being replaced. If leaders do not begin addressing the issues that make teaching a less desirable profession with innovation and dedication, this growing trend will soon reach a crisis point. In 2024, so many highly qualified and talented teachers want to stay exactly where they are, but they need more support. Making some headway toward productive change is no longer optional if we want to retain skillful teachers.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less, Lead Like a Teacher and Writing Their Future Selves. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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