Research Says This Is What It’s Like Teaching in 2024

Teaching in 2024 is no joke. Schools today face challenges that no one could have foreseen five years ago, teaching after COVID, challenges to classroom materials, the rise of A.I., student mental health concerns. And, we haven’t even touched on the incredible teacher shortage.

Among it all, a new PEW Research survey finds some interesting trends in how teachers feel about their jobs and what it’s like to teach in 2024. The headline: teachers are stressed, overwhelmed, and pessimistic about education, but also satisfied with their work.

(The PEW Research Center surveyed 2,531 public K-12 teachers in the U.S. in October and November 2023.)

We asked teachers what they thought about the major findings in the survey. Here’s what Pew reported and what 22 teachers from our We Are Teachers HELPLINE Facebook group think about the state of teaching in 2024.

1. Teaching in 2024 is stressful

Ok, that’s not really “news.” But what is interesting is that teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than other workers and, the high percent of teachers who said that teaching today is just too much.

In the PEW survey, 77% of teachers said that teaching is frequently stressful and 68% said teaching is overwhelming.

“Teaching has become more and more stressful. We are expected to be everything for a student, yet not have appropriate boundaries.” —Keri

From a high school teacher with a decade of teaching experience: “This is the first year since the lockdown that I felt more enjoyment than stress. That said, I still experience more stress than I would like because of kids who simply want to challenge you and not learn, bulldozer parents who are made their kids are being held accountable and micromanaging admin who seem to think harping on teachers will…motivate them?” —Ali

“Some days I enjoy it, some days its stressful. Usually the stress comes from admin or parents. The mounting expectations. Sometimes kids’ behaviors.” —Heather

2. Teachers don’t recommend teaching

There’s already a teacher shortage, what will happen if teachers in today’s classrooms aren’t passing the baton?

52% of survey respondents said they would not advise young people to become teachers.

“I would in no way recommend this to anyone…I’m not sure I can make it to retirement.” —Shannon

“Yes, I would recommend teaching and do to those that I feel have the gift. I tell them upfront it is not an easy job.” —Roberta

“My own daughter wants to be a teacher and I am actively trying to change her mind.” —Keri

3. Teachers think education is getting worse

In the survey, and in the Helpline, teachers overwhelmingly thought that education was getting worse. The reasons are varied; in the Pew survey, 60% mentioned the current political climate, 57% mentioned effects from COVID,and 46% mentioned lack of funding and resources.

82% of teachers surveyed said that they think the state of education has gotten worse in the past five years.

From a middle school teacher of 40 years: “The COVID lockdown changed these kids in maturity, and they haven’t caught up…They’ve regressed so much emotionally and there isn’t a plan to address this.” —Craig

“No one is managing kids’ behaviors at home so the behaviors are out of control at school, where there no consequences. They are completely addicted to their phones and constantly distracted.” —Deanna

“Unfortunately, education in the U.S. has escaped the trends in broader society and school is increasingly dangerous for everyone in the building, most specifically black, brown, and LGBTQAI+ children and educators.” —Ashley

“Education itself is about the same. There’s nothing new under the sun, its just how they package it.” —William

“When I started teaching 7th grade 13 years ago, I could give much more rigorous tasks, kids would read directions and write their full names on things, etc. Today I feel like I am teaching to a much lower grade level.” —Beth

“Education in the U.S. hasn’t really changed much in the last hundred years. What has changed is the needs of students attending and parent expectations.” —Tim

“I feel that ‘education’ has improved. However, what’s holding us back are things beyond an educator’s control. Being called groomers or indoctrinators by society. Parents screaming for book bans on stuff they clearly haven’t read. No discipline at home. Devices. State testing.” —Maria

4. Work-life balance is, well, not a thing

While there are efforts to help teachers find work-life balance, it feels elusive to many teachers. And, there was a difference between male and female teachers on this question. Women teachers were more likely to than men to say that work-life balance was difficult (57% of women vs. 43% of men).

54% of teachers said it’s hard to balance work and life. 25% said it was easy.

“Work-life balance? AHAHAHAHA What’s that?” —Ali

“As teachers are finding a better work life balance, and saying no to all the unpaid extra activities, we are being told that we should ‘do it for the kids!’” —Keri

From a high school teacher who shifted to teaching after working in the corporate world. “I am done with work when the last bell rings….love having summers to spend with my husband and grandchildren.”—Debi

Read more: 10 Ways Teachers Cut Corners at Work

5. Work friends make our day

Teaching is about more than students–it’s also about finding camaraderie with peers and mentors. Relationships at school is one area where teachers, generally, had positive things to say.

When it came to aspects of teaching that were satisfying, 71% of teachers were most satisfied with relationships with others at school.

“I work with an amazing team! We eat lunch together every day, bouncing ideas off one another. We group text all weekend and share everything!” —Angela

“I couldn’t do this job without my colleagues. My fellow teachers and I support each other and cover for each other. Need a quick break? We gotcha covered. Need advice? Someone else has walked that way. Sometimes we even encourage each other to take mental health days. Without my colleagues, this job would be overwhelming.” —Linda

“My grade level partner and I work so well together and it makes everything else go smoothly.” —Gretchen

“I never get to spend time with any other teachers for more than five minutes.” —Kelly

Read more: 43 Amazing Things Teacher Friends do for One Another

6. Salaries are not cutting it

Another non-headline, teachers need to be paid more. Legislators, are you reading this?

15% of teachers were extremely or very satisfied with how much they got paid, while 51% were not satisfied.

“I knew what I signed on for. Do I deserve more? Probably! Do I work more than 40 hours a week? Most certainly. Is it worth it? To me it is.” —Laura Ann

“I’m relatively okay with my salary, but our raises are not keeping up with inflation.” —Roberta

One teacher mentioned the fact that salary has a lot to do with where you teach. “Since moving back to IL my salary is great. In AZ, my salary was barely above poverty level.” —Jen

Check out 2023 teacher salaries across the U.S. and our Teacher Salary Stories series.

7. Teachers like teaching

More than half of teachers reported finding their job fulfilling or enjoyable, which is less than the percent who said it was overwhelming. However, teachers who were newer to the profession reported more positive experiences than those who have been teaching for 10 years or more.

56% of teachers indicated that their job was fulfilling often or extremely often. 53% said their work was enjoyable.

“The thing that keeps me coming back is the relationships I form with many of my kids. I have two periods full of genuinely sweet, wonderful kiddos who truly give me hope for the future.” —Ali

“I love teaching. My students make me laugh and most of them are truly trying their very best. And when the light bulb goes on, it’s the best feeling.” —Keri

“Love the autonomy of teaching…as long as I cover the standards I can pretty much do what I want in my class…Even on the worst day, it’s the best job ever.”—Debi

From an AP Literature teacher, “I love my students…just to see how successful they are brings me great joy.” —Laura Ann

“I love my students. I taught 2nd grade for nine years, bonding with students. Last year I was moved to 7th grade and have my old students again. The joy of seeing where they have gone in their lives and their learning!” —Angela

“I get to work with some terrific kids and help them grow as people.”—Roberta

“I like teaching my content area, English.”—Jen

From a teacher at a career-tech high school. “Walking through the career-tech labs is so impressive. Watching high school kids shine in this environment is spectacular.” —Cindy

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