Want to change the world? Become a teacher.

According to a new report by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, nearly every teacher (98%) agrees that teaching is more than a profession. It is how they make a difference in the world, one child at a time.

“Teaching is part of my heart and soul,” said one elementary school teacher. “There isn’t anything I would rather do.”

The survey of more than 20,000 public school teachers in PreK through grade 12 nationwide, conducted online in July 2013, shows that amid “constantly changing demands,” teachers remain steadfast in their commitment to helping all students succeed.

More than 85 percent of teachers say that they entered the profession to make a positive difference in children’s lives. “I love what I do,” one middle school teacher said. “Those moments with students when they realize they’ve learned something new about themselves or their world makes every meeting or change worth it.”

Wide Range of Student Needs

At the same time, teachers clearly identified the wide range of students’ individual needs as among the most important, and underappreciated, challenges they face. Almost all teachers (99%) report having students who need assistance for social, emotional, or behavioral challenges. In most classrooms, teachers must address a diverse set of reading and skill levels. For example:

• 73 percent of teachers have students with reading levels that span four or more grade levels

• 72 percent of teachers have special education students

• 52 percent of teachers have English language learners

Helping students overcome obstacles, according to the report, is part of the deep satisfaction that comes with teaching. “When you see a kid who’s been struggling for such a long time finally get it,” said one high school teacher, “you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”

Most teachers agree: 88 percent say that the rewards of their profession outweigh the challenges.

“Teaching is probably the most complex, critical job in our society,” said Francie Alexander, Scholastic’s Chief Academic Officer, commenting on the survey. “There is not one person out there who hasn’t had a teacher along the way who made an incredible difference.”

We’ll spotlight more findings in the weeks ahead.

About Primary Sources

A new survey, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, reflects the views of more than 20,000 public school teachers in Pre-K through grade 12 nationwide.

A joint project of Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report delves into the challenges and rewards of the teaching profession; teachers’ views about the Common Core State Standards; the desire for feedback that is fair and ensures professional growth; and how teachers use technology to collaborate with peers. 

Download the complete Primary Sources report here.