When thinking about school dynamics when they were K-12 students themselves, vast majorities of Americans recall respect existing between academic "stakeholders." Respect between teachers and parents during this time is perceived as having been especially strong, with 91% of Americans each believing that teachers respected parents, and that parents respected teachers.
So what has changed? Americans' outlook on these relationships today is far less rosy. U.S. adults are far less likely to believe these disparate groups respect one another, with perceptions of parental and student respect for teachers showing the steepest declines when compared to how Americans perceive these relationships from when they were in school themselves:
- Only half of Americans believe parents respect teachers today (49%, down 42 points).
- Only three in ten believe today's K-12 students respect teachers (31%, making for a drop of 48 points).
- Just under two-thirds of Americans believe that teachers respect parents today (64%, down 27 percentage points when compared to the percentage who believe teachers respected parents during their own K-12 schooling).
- Roughly six in ten each believe that teachers today respect students (61%, down 25 points) and that the administration respects teachers (58%, down 30 points).
Also troubling is the disparity between teachers perceived respect for students and parents, in comparison to the relative lack of respect these groups are seen as showing in return. Americans are considerably more likely to say teachers respect parents (64%) than that parents respect teachers (49%). Turning to the student-teacher dynamic, Americans are twice as likely to say that teachers respect students (61%) than they are to say that students respect teachers (31%).
And the most influential teacher is…
Every awards season includes at least one celebrity thanking the teacher that influenced them most in their life. Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes and Adam Sandler (who can forget him thanking his kindergarten teacher on stage at the People's Choice Awards?) have all publicly recognized teachers that influenced them and pushed them to be successful.
The survey also asked Americans to think about teachers they may have had in the past, and to indicate during which school years they had the most influential teacher or teachers.
High school was the top response (47%), mentioned at a roughly 2-to-1 ratio over elementary school (23%). 16% of Americans pointed to middle school or junior high school (16%) and 14% said they experienced their most influential teacher or teachers in college.
- Roughly three in ten college graduates and post grads (31% and 29%, respectively) cited college.
Nearly one-fourth each pointed to the teacher or teachers being "Knowledgeable about their subject matter" (23%) and "Instilling self-confidence in me" (23%), while two in ten selected "Sense of humor" (20%).
Some factors varied along generational lines:
- "Teaching style" appears to have been less of a factor among Echo Boomers (25%) than among their older counterparts (38% Gen Xers, 32% Baby Boomers, 39% Matures).
- Turning to the other end of the age spectrum, Matures are more likely than any of their younger counterparts to value "Knowledgeable about subject manner" in this manner (20% Echo Boomers, 21% Gen Xers, 23% Baby Boomers, 31% Matures).