Why do we hate teachers?

Schoolmaster-with-cane-be-006We seem to hate teachers, at least if one goes by some of the comments one sees. Teachers are pretty regularly called thugs, bullies, parasites, derided as lazy, seen as grossly self interested, motivated only by money (as opposed to the pure desire of those commenting to help the public and work pro bono), and castigated for little johnny not progressing fast enough.  With the news that ASTI (the main second level teachers union) has rejected the Haddington Road  Agreement, expect this vitriol to seep out of the media once more.

One of the more egregious but alas not uncommon type of comment comes from the commentator and financial advisor Eddie Hobbs, who tweeted saturday

“Next weeks common Q at school gates: Are you TUI or one of those spoiled ASTI muppets on €60 grand a head +pensions €1m, threatening my kid?”

This sparked a good few conversations on the twitter machine, with a few comments (in the high negative) from yrs trly. I had to head off mid stream to continue the shopping/mind the two year old/do Saturday things, but the conversation continued. Eddies crowning glory was to seem to suggest that the (female dominated, 65% of staff) ASTI decision to reject the haddington road agreement was down to PMT. Classy

@brianmlucey Sal 60k @NRD (ASTI TUI) +Pen accurate ref annuities. Not about performance, about affordability. Increase dose feminax

 

Its this kind of frankly odd mixture of loathing, name calling and incitement to class division that got me thinking : why do we hate teachers so?

Three things seem to be particular bugbears: salaries and pensions, inability to deal with underperforming teachers and holidays.

The first is of course subject to massive confusion. Even someone like Eddie, who’s job it is to deal in figures, seems unable to find out the average salary. And it’s hard. But for 2012 we had a 2011 spend of 1,180,m on second level teachers salaries this year, and 2,052 on primary. In 2011 we had 32489 primary teachers and 26185 second level. So it’s a salary level of 1180000/26185 or 45k average for second level and 2052000/32489 or 63k for primary teachers on average. This gives a total average salary of 3232000/58674 or 55k. Not bad but not 60k. There is more to this however, on which I will talk below.

The second issue is entirely correct. There is no reason, other than a combination of managerial sloth and union power, combined with a healthy dose of political cowardice over decades, why we have not gotten in place some system for inservice evaluation, with rewards and sanctions, for pretty much every aspect of the public sector. We still don’t.

The third is strange. Many seem to think that the purpose of schools is to act as free crèches for the kids. By all means lets cut down on holidays – but will it serve any educational purpose? If we look at the West German experiment it seems not to matter. Other research suggests similar. And again, there is more to this than meets the eye.

Surely the issue is : how are we doing? Data driven analysis or discussion is alien to Irish commentators it seems. In this field there is a wonderful resource : every year the OECD publish a report comparing a whole pile of metrics in education round the OECD. Its called “Education at a glance” and is well worth reading . It has lots of information on the structure, costs, benefits and so forth of all levels of education. Money values are reported in PPP$ which is to say US Dollars adjusted for relative purchasing power, reflecting that its cheaper to live in Portugal than Norway. Thus these are broadly comparable.

The 2013 edition is out but recently. Its instructive to look at the data on second level teachers.  In a lot of the metrics the data are split into Lower and Upper secondary. This is roughly up to the Junior Cert and then the senior cycle. Many states have separate junior and senior schools.

 

  • Irish education manages to graduate more of those who start education (89%) than the OECD/EU average 83/84
  • A second level education in Ireland pays off. For a man it has a lifetime present value of  $142k , for a woman $118. The oecd averages are $100 and $69
  • We spend more per student per annum at second level,  $11k than the OECD or EU average $9k. Looking at this in terms of GDP per capita the discrepancy is less : 28% v 26% for the OECD/EU
  • We spend less on (primary and secondary) education – 7.4% – as  proportion of total government expenditure than the  OECD or EU – 8.6% and 7.6%
  •   Total current spending including all wages (94% of all spending) is slightly higher than the OECD and EU averages (92%)
  • Salary costs per student per annum are $3800, compared to OECD average of 3400. In per capital terms its less of a discrepancy, 10.3% vs 10%
  • Irish teachers, compared to other tertiary educated workers, earn 82% of average salary. This is less than the EU or OECD average of 89%.
  • Irish teachers spend more time, net, teaching (735h) than the OECD or EU average ( 686h, 650h) .

 

So : we pay second level teachers a bit more, but we seem to get more out of them than our peers. Which makes the frank hatred evinced from some quarters hard to fathom. I personally believe it comes down to bad experiences. I had some truly horrendous teachers. But I had more ok and a couple of really good ones. Instead of arguing from simply the curdled reflection of our school days we might want to look at the data as they are now. And they show a decent system. Lets stop demonsing the people in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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39 thoughts on “Why do we hate teachers?

  1. Brian Mulligan

    Yes but what about number 2? When parents have grossly underperforming teachers in charge of their children it is difficult for them to do a sophisticated comparison of pay/performance ratios in the developed world. Having to commute to a 9-5 job and work most of the Summer does not help either. Parents these days. So emotional!

    Reply
    1. brianmlucey Post author

      devise a way to measure teacher effectiveness. In your answer distinguish between short and long run impact, and ensure that the metric accurately allows for pupil, school, cohort and infrastructure effects.

      Feel free…

      Reply
  2. ahermens

    I agree 100% with this article and I often wonder myself EXACTLY the same question in the United Kingdom. Infact I would go further and ask why do teachers even teach given the stress and abuse they receive? I think state provided schools have been massively underprovisioned relative to current (and expected) demand. These guys are running on fumes especially in London schools. Governments need to really invest a lot more money in schools and support (& monitor) teachers more proactively.

    Reply
    1. Brian Mulligan

      It probably would pay to invest more money in education. But you might be throwing good money after bad. This is a brute force approach. Let’s work smarter not harder. Let’s design a better education system and put more money into that, and not one designed by vested interests.

      Reply
      1. brianmlucey Post author

        vested interests? Such as…? Society has determined via successive elections that this is what they want. If teachers designed the education system im pretty sure it would be radically different.

      2. ahermens

        Actually thats a very good point Brian. In the UK did you know that an Ofsted inspection occurs on average once every 4-5 years. Why isn’t this happening once every 4-5 WEEKS? Can you imagine how you would react if I said to you, “Hey I’m going to give you your first Electricty Bill, in 2017.” Crazy.

  3. Brian Mulligan

    Brian, you asked why people hated teachers so much, then proceeded to answer the question and then said that it was an unreasonable conclusion. You even suggested that the lack of accountability was the Government’s fault (for not standing up to the unions?). So are we agreed or not that pay and conditions and lack of accountability are the reasons people don’t like teachers. If so, well and good. But it is not a particularly important question. To be honest the purpose of any analysis like this is not to make teachers liked, it is to make them effective. If accountability is an issue in their effectiveness then let’s tackle that. It will be tricky, but can most likely be done.

    Reply
    1. brianmlucey Post author

      Brian
      Govt, management and unions are all complicit in lack of accountability.
      And no, I think frankly people who rant about teachers have some vague memory of someone they didn’t like and then proceed from that to the general.
      Plus, its not to make “teachers” effective. Its to make the system of education effective. Saying teachers implies its all down to them…

      Reply
  4. Brian Mulligan

    “Saying teachers implies its all down to them…” I agree that the system has to be more effective, but my experience is that teachers generally resist change (unless it is smaller class sizes and more money – a very unsophisticated approach). Having said that, the level of sophistication in understanding learning in the Dept. of Education leaves a lot to be desired. As for the understanding of politicians – well, what can you say? (I recently sat on a USI panel with Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail panelists – “jesus wept!”)

    You have suggested that measurement should be at the core of this. I agree, but not as traditionally done (as in the US “No child left behind”). We need to measure the effectiveness of the system and that means not measuring individual children (badly – because of the lack of money to measure each one well). This can be more effectively done by sampling and measuring accurately the totality of outcomes that are desired. (We would of course measure “Added value”)

    Reply
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  6. cormac

    Interesting post, Brian. In answer to your central question, I wonder is it partly because, at some level, we resent those who we preceive to be smarter than we are (or who we suspect see themselves as smarter than we are).
    It’s not for nothing that the word ‘geek’ is used everywhere in the media for any person suspected of being good at maths, science or indeed anything technical. It’s not for nothing that kids who make an effort in school are quickly label ‘swots’.
    Add in the holidays and the secure pension of teachers and we hate these guys worse than Mercedes drivers. Pretty soon, teachers in ireland will be rated the same as the US, where teaching ‘grade school’ is perceived as a job for failures

    Reply
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  8. Not a Teacher

    Brian, how many of the other countries you looked at have a lower house of parliament that is 25% teachers, including a teacher as Prime Minister (Kenny), Leader of the Opposition (Martin) and teachers occupying all three Finance positions in Govt (Noonan, Howlin, and Hayes).

    Reply
    1. Aengus

      Yes, but dont forget they got the hell OUT of teaching…

      Now..not in the slightest bit would I denigrate or slag off lecturers..but I’ve never noticed the rabble ringing up JOE DUffy ballyragging third level lecturers…it’s always aimed at teachers..seems to me that a lot of folk think they have an indepth understanding of the education system by virtue of the fact that they might have gone to school in the past.

      Reply
      1. Brian Mulligan

        A good theory, Aengus. Here’s another one. How about: Teaching is one of several professions that facilitates people getting involved in politics. In this case, “facilitates” includes “allows then enough time”.

      2. Brian Mulligan

        How about a supply-and-demand analysis of the ratio of those trying to get the hell out of professions versus those trying to get the hell in to professions. How does teaching stack up against others? It would be easy to imagine lots of teachers saying “I hate this job. I want to get the hell out. But, you know…the conditions…”

      3. aengus

        Yes it might be easy to imagine teachers saying xyz brian but thats because it’s your imagination doing it.

        Btw its not a theory that they have left teaching to become politicians, it is a fact because they are now politicians and not teachers.

        You also say that teachers are resistant to change. Where is resistance a bad thing in teaching…we want to protect what is good sure.. If you take the project maths farce at the moment I, like many other teachers agree with the need for change BUT every maths teacher up and down the country has got on board with this experiment. But our
        reservations have been justified as can be seen from the tinkering with the stats and ham fisted bonus points. The reason why we are resistant is that we are on the inside and
        can predict the outcome more so than a politician surrounded by sexy soundbite spinners. Also, any initiatives taken in education take at least ten years for the outcomes to be examined by outside bodies. And we know who will be the whipping boys when RQ is reflecting on his failed reforms to some lazy journo whilst in his office in Brussels.
        Looking at many of the proposals in Haddington Road it looks like we are trying to ape the english system which is straining under paperwork and an obsession with measurement. Teaching in Ireland has become a part time job so talking about permanacy/pensions/paid holidays are moot points for those who entered the profession in the last ten years.

        Soooo the question is what do people want from teachers, how much is enough? People give out about paying over €10k in creche fees for one child (and rightly so). If I was to just babysit 25 teenagers from 9 to 4, how much do you think I would deserve to be paid…now factor in at least 3 years in college and a further 2 for HDip…shouldn’t I expect a little more to be educating? Would you say to a binman starting out “shur ill give you Ten hours work but hang around for the full working week and maybe we’ll take you on in a few years”.

        Don’t be a sheep to old arguements you hear trotted out by lazy Journos…next up is newsreader Emer Kelly today having her pound of flesh.

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  10. Brian Mulligan

    Hi Aengus. I’m sure all who take part in this blog debate subscribe to the notion of evidence based change. The theory is not that there are a lot of teachers in politics (that’s an observation) it is that it may be caused by the time they have available to dedicate to the tedious business of politics (that most people would neither have the time or stomach for). As for using imagination, it’s a great place to start in finding theories that can be tested. Don’t knock it – we have enough trouble with the unimaginative people around in both teaching and politics. (“it can’t be done” “it’ll never work”)

    i know I have a personal weakness in regards to change and i like change for its own sake. I know that is not necessarily a good thing. I would be bored to death if I worked in a system that was perfect. Luckily I work in education.

    Your example on Project Maths is a good one. As an engineer who specialised in mathematical modelling I was always coming across people who did quite well in maths exams but could not apply it to save their lives. All that learning seemed to be a waste of time. So project maths may not be doing so well yet, but it does not have to go far to improve on what was there already. could it be that there may be a lot of Maths teachers that have never learned to apply mathematical principles to the real world.

    I agree that we don’t want more paperwork – that won’t solve the problem.

    I’m not impressed by the fact that teachers have 5 years post-secondary education. It’s the output you need to measure. Good inputs rarely guarantee good outputs. there are too many other variables involved.

    Reply
    1. Aengus

      First of all Brian M I’m not knocking imagination ..i was referring to your imaginary musings on what teachers would say…e.g. “It would be easy to imagine lots of teachers saying “I hate this job. I want to get the hell out. But, you know…the conditions…”

      As regards engineers commenting on the deficiencies of maths teachers that’s a pretty recent debate… funnily enough it seemed to me that that debate really picked up steam around 2007 when Engineers started to loose their jobs. And what was the next logical step?…shur lets go into teaching maths lads, those teachers are crap and have no real world experience.. This was evidenced on forums with countless engineers complaining about having to be qualified in maths to teach it (join the queue folks along with the accountants and IT folk). Now I don’t for a minute discount the effort that Engineers Ireland has done to improve maths understanding and its practical applications.. but what i do resent is other sectors thinking they can jump into teaching as it’s a ‘job for life’ handy number/great holidays and pay etc. (i’d really love to know how many of these engineers actually stuck around to witness the part time profession and low pay that the teaching profession has provided).

      As regards applying maths principals and project maths, people often forget that at this stage in a teenagers life many will not have reached that Formal operation stage of deductive reasoning. i’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to opening a students mind but when you look at the mess that that PM has become you can understand how teachers patience has run thin by govt. giving into demands from industry.. Just look at any of the new exam papers, LC english papers are easer to decipher than PM. Change for the sake of change IMO.

      BTW …all of these great engineers were taught by whom in secondary Schools? Other engineers ?..I doubt it..
      There’s good teachers and bad teachers, same as good and bad engineers/dentists/litter wardens/physiotherapists etc. Why do people hate teachers (as opposed to Why do people hate physiotherapists?) It’s because most people think they have an indepth knowledge of teaching because they went to school at one time.

      So feel free… how do you propose to measure the ‘outputs’ of teachers?

      Reply
      1. Brian Mulligan

        Hi Aengus. Imagination and observations are good starting points for forming hypotheses that need to be verified by research. I suggested that people “imagine” teachers acting in that way in case they had never observed it. As it happens, I did not need to imagine it as I have observed many teachers complaining but very few leaving the profession (actually none I can think of right at the moment but I’m sure I do know some).

        As for Engineers teaching maths, I completely agree with you. I tried it once myself and made a dog’s dinner of it. I do agree that teachers have a much better arsenal of techniques that engineers to be used in facilitating learning. However, we were discussing the content of maths courses, not who would teach them. The application of mathematical techniques to real world problems is not only a different set of topics, but may also require different teaching techniques. (I’ve also taught mathematical modelling, which is essentially project maths and which I was even more unsuccessful at). So we don’t have enough maths teachers, and they are not particularly familiar with the applications of maths, and to top that they are not necessarily familiar with possible ways of teaching the new topic. No wonder it’s not going to well. However, it may be better to teach the right stuff badly, that to teach irrelevant stuff well. (Although to be fair, the existing syllabus is not only very interesting to the right students and really useful to many afterwards – so I would be sympathetic to those in higher education who were depending on that small number of people coming through on to their courses).

        As for measuring outputs. That’s more “on topic”. It may be difficult but it should be done. There is a whole science in Educational Measurement and I can’t say that I’m an expert. There is no point in setting objectives unless you can’t check if you are achieving them. As long as teachers seem unaccountable to the public, they will be resented.

        Here’s a thought experiment:
        Do you remember your secondary teachers?
        Could you rank them in order of effectiveness?
        Could you score them out of 10 for effectiveness?
        Did they all get the same score?
        What criteria would you use to determine a score?
        How would you account for the variability?
        Would any change have helped?

      2. Amos Hermens

        I think thats precisely the problem. We don’t have the data, even though we do have the technology. All of the above should be reported real-time (ok maybe weekly would suffice) to parents and children.

        Those are great questions btw, although I would extend them to include primary school as well.

        Also lets flip this post around. How can we show to parents and pupils how good a job a teacher is doing, and not necessarily how bad they are.

        For UK listeners I hope Ofsted are reading this post.

  11. cormac

    One straightforward statistic is the number and age of teachers retiring early in comparison with other professions.I remember seeing a statistic on this somewhere for Ireland, and the number of early retirees (5 years early, I think) from the secondary sector was almost double that of either 1st or third level, indicative of a highly demanding and stressful occupation

    Reply
    1. derelictvultures

      Yes Brian M. Indeed we could discuss maths/engineering pedagogy all day, but my main point was that teachers are opposed to change SOMETIMES for valid reasons ,and these won’t become apparent in reading a shlock teacher bashing article which do the rounds every month.

      Now…down to measuring output/outcomes (of which you still havn’t used that imagination to propose any!). I could indeed ‘ratemyteachers.com’ from my days as a student…But ill give you an anecdote first…I was speaking to a friend who did the same subject as me. I recounted that I thought the teacher was excellent..he just guffawed and said “ya he was excellent for you but sh##e for the rest if the class!”. Also I’ve taught in classes where the addition or subtraction of one student has had a profound impact on the class. Also, I’ve taught in different socio economic environments where student motivations are different.
      Should I be rewarded more for say , getting 20 students to actually attend an exam and maybe pass (which might be a major achievement for them!). Or should I be sanctioned more for only getting 5 A’s for students in a highly academic middle class school, despite having gotten 10 A’s the previous year from a different bunch?
      Is it fair to have a customer driven approach with teenagers rating adults?
      Would you feel happy about measuring outputs for other professions in the public service.
      Doctors = people cured
      Nurses = beds emptied
      Dentists = Teeth pulled

      Reply
  12. derelictvultures

    Yes Brian M. Indeed we could discuss maths/engineering pedagogy all day, but my main point was that teachers are opposed to change SOMETIMES for valid reasons ,and these won’t become apparent in reading a shlock teacher bashing article which do the rounds every month.

    Now…down to measuring output/outcomes (of which you still havn’t used that imagination to propose any!). I could indeed ‘ratemyteachers.com’ from my days as a student…But ill give you an anecdote first…I was speaking to a friend who did the same subject as me. I recounted that I thought the teacher was excellent..he just guffawed and said “ya he was excellent for you but sh##e for the rest if the class!”. Also I’ve taught in classes where the addition or subtraction of one student has had a profound impact on the class. Also, I’ve taught in different socio economic environments where student motivations are different.
    Should I be rewarded more for say , getting 20 students to actually attend an exam and maybe pass (which might be a major achievement for them!). Or should I be sanctioned more for only getting 5 A’s for students in a highly academic middle class school, despite having gotten 10 A’s the previous year from a different bunch?
    Is it fair to have a customer driven approach with teenagers rating adults?
    Would you feel happy about measuring outputs for other professions in the public service.
    Doctors = people cured
    Nurses = beds emptied
    Dentists = Teeth pulled

    Your ‘though experiment’ poses questions but you have yet to proffer any suggestions… Are you inferring that every student marks their teacher out of ten and you get some type of average…is that it?

    Reply
    1. derelictvultures

      Amos … what exactly should be reported weekly to parents…teacher effectiveness…? Who measures this…teenagers? Ya great idea there…maybe if I autotuned my voice it might improve my ratings for next week. How about a Justin Beeber hairdo.

      Reply
      1. ahermens

        I would start with even a basic email at the start of the week of what the pupil was expected to learn. so a week ahead email. Then at the end of the week a summary of what was actually done. If tests were done that week the results should be reported as well as the class average. Also good & bad behaviour should be reported in the email,

      2. derelictvultures

        Ya good idea einstein, so….of the 300 students i teach in a week I should be sending off 300 different emails every monday and friday?
        Obviously you want me to be doing this on sunday and friday evening?
        Try again…

      3. ahermens

        Definitely not done by the teacher with 300 students, that would be suicide. Ideally the technology would have to be provided to the teachers by the IT Department as a service. Our local primary school each year a parent class representative is assigned and they email around the parents information. I’ve noticed each year we are getting better information, and starting this year we can even download the class curriculum and daily timetable.

        I know a couple teachers in the States with no infrastructure use Kidsblog. I haven’t used it myself but looks like an interesting mechanism to involve parents. http://kidblog.org/home/

        But again only with class size up to 40 max I would have thought. With 300 you really need infrastructure support.

      4. ahermens

        hahaha….fair call. yup back imho to the original problem. Massive underspend in education. Exactly the same in the UK.

        Very sad that teachers have amazing technology at home (and probably even in their pocket with smart phones), but in a lot of schools they take 2 (sometimes 3) steps backwards when they enter the school gates.

  13. Brian Mulligan

    Folks – a few of you, including our host, seem to be sceptical about the idea of measuring teacher quality – or even if you could measure outputs. I may have said here (or in another entry) that this is a highly technical area (I had a go at looking into it recently and i got a bit demoralised when I saw the amount of stuff I’d have to get to grips with). However, I get the impression that there is good work going on out there and fair play to The Economist for its ability to make it a bit more understandable. I found this to be very interesting:
    http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21587784-good-teachers-have-surprisingly-big-impact-their-pupils-future

    There are a few conclusions that are relevant to this discussion. Firstly it seems that it is well worth investing in good teachers. Teachers might like that conclusion but they might not like the others. It is possible to measure the quality of teachers. We may need to get rid of the poor ones. There is a high variability in teacher quality. Investment in quality teachers may be more effective than reducing class sizes.

    Reply
      1. Brian Mulligan

        As I said, Brian, this is a highly technical area that I’m not particularly familiar with. This particular research address the scepticism about variation in backgrounds, previous achievements and various other factors that people often bring up in arguments. As an academic yourself, you already know that if you collect the right data you can control for these variations.

        I presume that your scepticism is based on the idea that tests scores do not necessarily measure the real outcomes we want from education (critical thinking etc). This reminds me of the scepticism around the “Economics of HAppiness” field (Oswald, Frank etc), characterised by the typical statement: “You can’t measure happiness”. My general attitude to this is if we know what it is we want, and feel we can recognise it when we see it, then we can devise a way to measure it. (In general most of us feel we can judge if our friends are happy or not and if out teachers are good or not). So if we want to measure broader learning outcomes and research their correlation to a multitude of factors, I’m sure we can do it.

        Meanwhile, it is interesting to see that teacher quality is correlated to grades, an issue that seems to be very important to many parents. Most of these would seem unsurprised at the results of research that finds, at great expense, that their kids grades are related to the quality of teachers.

  14. derelictvultures

    I had a look at the abstracts (would like to read the full papers but I aint got 20 bucks!) it seemed like a pretty indepth longetudenal study. Outcomes measured wasn’t just test scores, but wages earned when the students had become adults. I think it took account of socio economic areas where students lived then and now. It also found that good teachers aren’t necessarily confined to affluent areas but rather mixed into most schools. (certainly questions the fee paying buying academic advantage debate to some extent).
    A few misgivings though… it was over
    a really long period of time (fifteen years I think, I know my teaching/pupils/curriculum have changed greatly in the small time since I’ve started). If you want to linkpromotions/pay/firings to performance and outcomes ..you would need to do a longitudinal analysis such as had been done in this research for every teacher/pupil. Is that practical.
    I’m not saying that teachers shouldn’t be above question or scrutiny, but is measurement such as this fair…are students

    economic units to be measured?
    Getting back to the question posed Why do we Hate Teachers? Will measurement and being answerable to industries needs satiate peoples hatred. Look to the UK..teaching has become a tickbox profession groaning under paperwork and a high rate of attrition.The promotion prospects/pay are excellent by Irish standards so why do they feel the need to import teachers from abroad?

    Reply

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