What motivates teachers?

April 9, 2015

NPR reported last month that several of the nation’s top teacher-producing states are witnessing significant drops in enrollment at teacher training programs:

In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It’s down sharply in New York and Texas as well. In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.

“The erosion is steady. That’s a steady downward line on a graph. And there’s no sign that it’s being turned around,” says Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education.


While few dispute the shortage itself, Benjamin Riley, head of the group Deans for Impact, a new consortium of 18 reform-minded deans of colleges of education, thinks it’s not yet clear why potential teachers are turning away.

“The honest answer is: We don’t know. There is nothing that has been done rigorously, in a way that’s empirically defensible saying, ‘We know this is why the number has dropped,’ ” Riley says.

As Benjamin Riley noted, no empirical study is available to explain the trend, but a survey of 10,000 public school teachers does offer some insight into what motivates teachers to keep at it. The study, commissioned by the Gates Foundation, found that a significant majority (68%) of teachers believe supportive leadership to be “absolutely essential.” Just 34% of respondents felt the same about increased pay. When the question was posed on social media about what motivates teachers to stick with it, the responses from teachers were really powerful.

So, we’d like to pose the question to our dual language immersion teachers: what motivates you? What gets you out of bed and into your classroom each morning? What keeps you energized as a teacher?

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