The Average Teacher

November 01, 2002 2 min read
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Anyone who watches Boston Public each week and isn’t an education professional would assume the following: Most U.S. teachers are hip, young things who work in schools of weapon-wielding, oversexed teens; and they spend much of their time obsessing about kids’ personal problems rather than writing lesson plans. For a more accurate profile of teachers today, we turned to the U.S. Current Population Survey and the recently released Schools and Staffing Survey, which asked more than 42,000 public school teachers scores of questions about their work lives [see “Sources” note below]. While those in the business know that there’s nothing at all “average” about teachers, we’ve put together a picture of what she (yes, most teachers are female, hence the accompanying illustration) and some of her colleagues look like. Not surprisingly, most spend abundant hours preparing for class, untangling red tape, and working to expand their knowledge and professionalism. And many, perhaps surprisingly, would return to the classroom if they had it all to do again. See if you recognize a little of yourself in this portrait of the “average” teacher.

42 years old

Female: 75%; Male: 25%

White: 84.4%; Black: 7.6%; Hispanic origin: 5.6%; Asian: 1.6%; Other: 0.8%

Years of teaching experience:

Annual salary:

Bachelor’s: 99.3%; Master’s: 46.3%; Doctorate: 0.7%

Hours worked before and after school and on weekends each week:

Class size:
Self-contained: 21 students; Specialized subjects: 24 students

Minority student population at school:

Threatened by a student in the past year:

Work in a school where all kids
pass through a metal detector daily

Students use computers in class:

Have complete control over various areas
of planning and teaching

Union member:
Yes: 79.4%; No: 20.6%

Teach at least one student with an individualized education plan:

Believe that lack of parental involvement is a serious problem:

Strongly agree that routine duties and paperwork interfere with job:


Born outside the United States:

Own a home:

Plan to stay in teaching until retirement or as long as possible:

Certainly would become a teacher again if had the chance to do it over:

Sources: Marital status, country of origin, and homeownership data compiled by Martye Scobee, a programmer at the Kentucky State Data Center, from the March 2000 Annual Demographic Survey of the Current Population Survey, conducted by the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All other data from the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, published by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. SASS figures prepared by Jennifer Park, Editorial Projects in Education researcher. Most entries have been rounded to the nearest whole number.


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