Teachers can inspire us & make a lifelong impression. Often it's a good impression, but sometimes it's not.
It's no surprise then, that many artists have written songs about the profession and the people in it. Here are the best songs about teachers ever.
Teacher I Need You by Elton John
Song Year: 1973
Most of us had a teacher who had something special. For Elton John’s, that something inspires a schoolboy crush that most people who have been teenage boys can completely understand.
He can’t concentrate, so he can’t get his homework done. He sits and stares at her in class, but it’s not for the sake of learning.
Who knows how good a teacher she actually was? It doesn’t matter.
Don’t Stand So Close to Me by The Police
Song Year: 1980
Lots of songs sing about crushing on a teacher. Not too many songs are about a teacher’s obsession with a student.
But in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” the song’s teacher narrator silently begs his students to stay away from him, but when he sees her waiting at a bus stop in the rain, he can’t help himself. As creepy as the song’s lyrics are, the song itself has an upbeat chorus that doesn't match its dark nature.
Hot for Teacher by Van Halen
Song Year: 1984
Just like Elton John’s teacher-loving song, Van Halen’s David Lee Roth also covers this classic theme: the sexy teacher that’s the focus of every drooling teenage boy in the school.
Oh, you’re going to give me detention? Where I’ll have to spend time with you after school when there are fewer people around? Okay.
It’s tongue-in-cheek, and it was in the 80s, so it’s all in good fun.
To Sir With Love by Lulu
Song Year: 1967
Scottish singer Lulu had some hits in the UK in the 60s and 70s, but “To Sir With Love” wasn’t one of them. Weird, since it was from the soundtrack to the 1967 film of the same name.
The lyrics capture the movie’s themes well. In the film, Sidney Poitier plays a teacher at a tough school in London’s East End. He has unruly students and prejudiced coworkers, but his regal bearing and respect for all win everyone over. By the film’s end, everyone in the school has changed for the better.
The students give their teacher a gift inscribed, “To Sir With Love.”
One More Try by George Michael
Song Year: 1988
The teacher in “One More Try” isn’t a certified teacher in a classroom. She’s the other half of a relationship with which George Michael’s narrator needs help. He’s been hurt before and doesn’t want to risk it.
He understands that she might be able to teach him how to love again. He’s hesitant but decides to chance it.
The song came from Michael’s debut solo album, Faith, released to critical and commercial success in 1987. It went to number one in the US and several other countries.
Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Song Year: 1969
Another song that’s not about tenured, credentialed teachers, but it’s still about teachers. People with children of their own bear a moral responsibility to teach them how to be good humans and make the world a better place.
Conversely, kids whose parents can’t or don’t know how to do those things should teach them. We must help each other and work to improve life for everyone. After all, not everyone has equal opportunities in life.
I Love You Period by Dan Baird
Song Year: 1992
Ever had a love note returned to the sender with grammatical corrections? It happens, but it probably hurts a lot less when the one sending it back is the teacher you sent it to. How could she not be expected to take advantage of a teaching moment? She’s a teacher, after all.
Dan Baird, before this single, the frontman of the Georgia Satellites, sings about how he loved being in this one class (not due to the subject matter). He finally gets up the nerve to write his beloved teacher a note, which she sends back, having made changes with her trusty red pen to make it more effective.
The Future’s So Bright by Timbuk 3
Song Year: 1987
This song doesn’t focus on the teacher (though it does mention that he’s crazy, and in teacher-student interactions, that adjective usually translates to “cool”), but rather on the effect the teacher has on the narrator student.
He’s learning lots of great stuff which means a good job in the future. To a teenager, that means having beer money. To this teenager, that means that the future is looking up thanks, in part, to his science teacher.
The Teacher by Paul Simon
Song Year: 2000
Paul Simon’s “The Teacher” tells a metaphorical tale of a boy, lost in the world, who meets a teacher. The teacher beckons the boy to follow him away from danger, and the boy learns from the unnamed teacher on the journey.
The titular character ages, and the boy matures. By the song’s end, the boy is changed by what he’s learned over the years-long journey, and though he’s wiser, he wistfully looks back at the past and longs for simpler times.
Children Will Listen by Bernadette Peters
Song Year: 1988
Anyone with children of their own knows they’re sponges. Accidentally swear in front of a toddler, and he’ll repeat that word loudly at the worst possible time. In church, if at all possible.
The Broadway musical Into the Woods has as part of its finale “Children Will Listen,” sung by Bernadette Peters as The Witch. The song warns us about the broader nature of children’s impressionability.
They watch and learning from us. Live right, it says, or your kids won’t learn how to do so when they’re the grownups.
When I Kissed the Teacher by ABBA
Song Year: 1976
In 1976, a song about a teenage girl with a crush on her teacher was cute. This song, in particular, is bouncy and joyful in a way few groups other than ABBA could ever pull off. The girl finally can’t help herself, and during a geometry lesson, she’s overcome and plants a wet one on her instructor.
“When I Kissed the Teacher,” despite being one of Benny Andersson’s favorite ABBA songs, never became a huge hit, though it appeared in the film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
It’s still a cute song, but in the 21st century, its lyricals hit a bit differently.
Master Teacher by Erykah Badu
Song Year: 2008
“Master Teacher” is the song that introduced the term “woke” to mainstream culture. What it meant then was being aware of the struggle of one’s African ancestors and the constant struggle they faced.
The term today has become political and changed meaning, but the song asks what the world would be like if everyone was a teacher. How much better would all our lives be?
Rock ‘n' Roll High School by The Ramones
Song Year: 1979
As the title track to Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, a 1979 film starring punk antiheroes The Ramones, “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” is not the kind of song any teacher would want dedicated to them at graduation. Still, it’s about teachers, and not everyone loves every teacher they ever had.
Not everyone loved high school, for that matter. In the film, the band members play students bedeviled by a principal and his crusade against rock music. In a move that presaged Footloose, the band takes over the school, plays a concert, and makes theirs a rock ‘n’ roll high school.
The Art Teacher by Rufus Wainwright
Song Year: 2004
Not every crushing schoolgirl kisses her teacher like the young woman in the ABBA song. In “The Art Teacher,” from Rufus Wainwright’s 2004 album Want Two, he sings from the point of view of an adult woman thinking back to the art teacher she always secretly loved, but because the teacher respected his role in his students’ lives, nothing ever happened between them.
She realizes as she looks back that while he taught her about art, he also modeled for her an unattainable ideal. She sadly recognizes that she’s never loved anyone since that art teacher.
Teach Me Tonight (Hootenanny) by Amy Winehouse
Song Year: 2003
“Teach Me Tonight (Hootenanny)” is another song about a teacher who doesn’t work for any educational institution.
Amy Winehouse’s soulful voice pleads with her lover to teach her a thing or two tonight. When she mentions graduation, she’s not talking about any ceremony with speeches and mortar boards.
It’s an old Sammy Cahn lyric that was recorded first in 1953, but the dripping sexuality of it is all Winehouse.
Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd
Song Year: 1979
Not every song about teachers is a song about how great they are. Everyone had at least one crummy teacher at some point, and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” aims right at those sub-par educators and the system that enables them. And as classic rock songs go, this one’s, well, a classic.
Accusing teachers of thought control, the song argues that kids need to be left alone. Too much interference by uncaring and inept teachers does more harm than good.
Hey, they’re not wrong.
Hey Teacher by Louis XIV
Song Year: 2005
The short-lived indie rock band Louis XIV brought a post-punk sensibility with them when they came out of San Diego. That sensibility explains, at least in part, the ineffability of some of their lyrics.
But in “Hey Teacher,” a drug-addled student tries not to act up in class even though he longs to be noticed by the teacher. He’s caught up in the paradoxes all around him:
- Don’t notice me, but please notice me.
- You’re too old for me, but I must have you.
- I don’t want drugs, but I really want some drugs.
Teacher, Teacher by .38 Special
Song Year: 1984
As 1980s movies about teachers go, 1984’s Teachers, starring Nick Nolte, isn’t the best or most inspiring. But .38 Special’s “Teacher, Teacher,” the film’s theme song, rises above the film and stands as a feel-good anthem. Because that’s mostly what .38 Special records.
The lyrics echo the plot of most teacher movies: I’m the kid who’s hard to reach, but I need to learn stuff about life and the world around me. Although I’m going to give you lots of grief, I secretly know I need you in my life and that you care about me. Awww.
Teacher by Nick Jonas
Song Year: 2014
Oh, Nick. You were so cute as a kid when the Jonas Brothers first broke. Now you’re all grown up singing about sex.
In “Teacher,” he’s not singing to a math teacher he’s got a crush on. No, no, no. Instead, he’s pitching a come-on line to a woman who he’s sure he can teach a thing or two.
Nick, you little scamp.
The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils by Morrissey
Song Year: 1995
Anyone who’s been out of school for more than a decade or so can, if they pay attention, see that the power dynamics between students and teachers (and administrators) have changed. And if you look at it going back several decades, the change becomes more and more pronounced.
The teachers in Morrisey’s song get encapsulated in a line that proved controversial when the song’s album, Southpaw Grammar, debuted in 1995, eight years after he parted ways with The Smiths. The line refers to the relief a teacher would feel when it all finally ends and was assumed to be a reference to suicide at the time.
But the bottom line— school has changed since the old days— remains.
Hands by Jewel
Song Year: 1998
Jewel’s 1998 song “Hands” isn’t the most blatantly teacher-centric song on this list, but it sums up a teacher’s mission nicely.
She focuses her lyrics on her hands, saying that they’re not the most powerful hands in the world, but since they’re hers, she’s responsible for them. If anyone can change the world, they’ll do it with their own hands.
Just as our teachers taught us to keep our hands to ourselves when we were little, teachers can inspire us to learn the message of this song: our hands are our tools for making life better— for ourselves and those around us.
If a teacher teaches that, it won’t matter if the student never fully grasps calculus.
Top Songs About Teachers, Final Thoughts
On the list of things that inspire us, two items at the top would be music and our teachers. These artists (and many others) have combined the two to great effect. These songs about teachers show the good— and sometimes the not-so-good— teachers do in our lives.