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Apathetic Teacher

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"Tutoring? Sorry, my schedule's packed."

"'Pick any moment from history and tell me about it. Be as creative as you like, or not, I don't care. Professor Cornwa...' He didn't even finish signing his own name!"
Jeff Winger (on their final history project from Prof. Cornwallis), Community

There are Badass Teachers, Sadist Teachers, Cool Teachers, Fired Teachers, and Enthusiastic Newbie Teachers...and then there's this guy. Jaded, misanthropic, and very likely a Deadpan Snarker, this is the teacher who's been in the job too long. He dislikes students in general — he's been there long enough to know they're thick and (usually) irritating. He hates the school, he hates the job, he really hates the management — but because he's known virtually nothing else, he still sticks at it, putting himself through it year after year.

Sometimes, these started out as young, enthusiastic Cool Teachers, who got beaten down by rowdy kids and an uncaring system. There's usually one person who will find that their no-longer-gives-a-shit attitude makes them a Cool Teacher anyway, or at the very least an occasional confidant. They're likely to seek solace in the bottom of a bottle. It's often implied, if not outright stated, that even their home life doesn't offer them much respite, either.


In pretty much all Save Our Students movies, one of these (if not an entire school of them) will serve as a foil to the idealistic teacher. If the school is an inner-city one, expect this teacher to be the one to make some remark about how they can't really expect anything from kids with this "background". Occasionally an apathetic teacher will be won over by the enthusiasm of an idealistic teacher and will start caring about the students too.

The key difference between Apathetic Teachers and Sadist Teachers is the former hate their jobs while the latter hate their students. Sadist Teachers often seem to take a sick glee in torturing their students; the teachers this trope describes don't seem to take much joy in anything, least of all their work.

In psychology, these people are called "burnouts".


Compare Apathetic Student.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yukari from Azumanga Daioh gets bored with her job easily. The show's opening even shows her sleeping at her desk. In one episode, she's just come back from summer vacation and she's as bummed out about going back to school as two of her students. Chiyo, also one of her students, tries to motivate Yukari with a repeated chant of "Get motivated!", but it doesn't work. The manga shows that, since she still lives with her parents, she even needs them to wake her up for work.
  • Ms. Igarashi from Pani Poni Dash! cares less for her students than where her next drink will come from.
  • Mr. Lazy from Haré+Guu, as a result of his all-night anime marathons.
  • In episode 4 of K Shiro sneaks his two new (supernatural) friends into his class at school. The teacher briefly stops to ask who they are, and Shiro tells him they're, uh, new transfer students. The teacher doesn't stop to verify this at all, he just keeps droning on about the book they're reading, completely oblivious.
  • In My Hero Academia, Class 1-A's homeroom teacher and pro-hero Shota Aizawa (Eraser Head) appears to be one at first. However, it's shown that he has very high standards for his students when it comes to heroism, and seriously pushes them in that regard. That said, he's still a Lazy Bum who falls into complete apathy when it comes to subjects he considers irrelevant, and on off days, he would rather curl up in a sleeping bag than put up with the Wacky Homeroom.
  • Dragon Ball Super has the angels, who are tutors for the Gods of Destruction. While the degree of this varies, most of the angels seem to be completely apathetic to their well-being. When it's revealed that losing universes in the Tournament of Power will be completely erased except for the angels, their reactions tend to range from genuine sadness to being happy that they're gone.
  • Yuki Endou in Asteroid in Love seems to enjoy making fun first, and being a teacher second. However, as the hot spring regulars tell the club members, she used to be diligent and talented when she was younger. She seems to be starting to get over this at the end of the Ishigaki arc, though.

    Comic Strips 
  • Mrs. Wormwood of Calvin and Hobbes. Whenever Calvin does something stupid, she thinks "Five more years 'til retirement... Five more years 'til retirement..."
    Calvin: I think it's really gross the way she drinks Maalox straight from the bottle.
    • Word of God has it that she believes in the value of a good education, which is why she's not happy with her job, as this idea is lost on Calvin.
  • Hard to tell if Mrs. Olsen of Frazz is this or a Sadist Teacher. Probably both.
  • Pictured above is "El Profe" Severiano from Los Miserables, who's the embodiment of this trope, in one strip he even "prepared" his students for the International Mathematical Olympiad by stealing the result sheet and making the students memorizing it while looking at a porn magazine during his class.
  • Mr. Fogarty of Luann, though he's portrayed as the Only Sane Man in comparison to the students in his class. When the main cast graduated high school is when he finally decided to retire from teaching altogether.
  • Le Petit Spirou: Mr. Mégot the gym teacher is a combination of apathetic and sadistic, though (thankfully?) his incompetence prevents him from doing too much damage. Highlights include taking the entire class to the local bar to play table football on rainy days, making them wash his car, or going fishing. His most iconic line is "the intelligent sportsman avoids unnecessary effort".

    Fan Works 
  • In Those Lacking Spines, Ms. Larxene of Destiny Sanctuary Peak High School Academy Grammar School. She teaches English, and spends most of her time flirting with the class' parents during "Career Day." Also, this may have something to do with the fallout after she realized what happened when she graduated with a degree in Philosophy.
  • In Raise Your Voice Against Liars, Apathy is the second target ( Miss Bustier's) sin. The reason this person never intervened with canon bullies like Chloe and Lila is because they just didn't care about students' well-being, instead prioritizing keeping the illusion of a calm school for their own personal benefit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Puff the Magic Dragon and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, Puff shows Terry that his teacher (who put down his artistic skills) is just one of these.
  • The Hangover: In an amusing subversion of the Hot Teacher, Phil (Bradley Cooper) doesn't seem to care about his job or the kids at all. He is pretty much a Jerkass in general, really. In fact, you see him taking field trip money from the kids for his trip to Vegas.
    Phil: (leaving for the weekend from school) Let's leave before another one of these nerds tries to ask me another question.
  • Heart of Dragon has the private tutor of Dodo, an autistic, mentally-retarded man in his thirties but with the mentality of a 5-year-old, who is paid by Dodo's brother Ted to homeschool him. Said tutor is all smiling and cheerful when Tat is around, but barely five minutes after Ted leaves, he starts scolding Dodo for not being able to recite simple English words and flat-out tells the autistic man that he’s taking this job for gambling money. He’s in the middle of his rant when Tat suddenly comes back, having forgotten to take his keys, and caught the teacher in his act.
  • Seems to be pretty much the entire point of Bad Teacher (2011).
  • Mr. Shoop in Summer School. By the end of the film, though, the kids have learned something.
  • In Dangerous Minds the Cool Teacher accuses the other teachers of this. An older teacher points out that she'll teach for a year, then move on to a better job, leaving the school and students behind. In real life, that's what she did.
  • Another Round: The opening scenes establish all four main characters as apathetic teachers stuck in a rut, delivering boring lectures to disinterested students.
  • Weston in To Sir, with Love fills this role, seeing the delinquent students as a lost cause.

  • Professor Cuthbert Binns from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (not present in the movie) was the only ghost professor in Hogwarts, the History of Magic teacher and possibly the most boring teacher in the school. School legend states he died after falling asleep in the staff room, and not realizing he was dead, rose as a ghost in order to teach his next class. He often called students by the wrong names and didn't try very hard to make the subject interesting for those he was teaching, droning on and on from old texts until most of his class had fallen asleep. (Nonetheless, he provided some valuable information to Hermione about the Chamber of Secrets.)
  • A minor character, but still an example: Phineas Nigellus in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a nice little rant about why he hated being a teacher, which doubles as a long-overdue "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the increasingly petulant Harry.
  • Captain Underpants: Pretty much every teacher at Jerome Horwitz Elementary when they aren't being Sadist Teachers. In the main universe anyway.
  • Professor Proust from Kill Time or Die Trying instructs his class to read one hundred pages from any textbook, and then dismisses them.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Coach Nunley from Meriwether College Prep in The Sea of Monsters, who pays absolutely no attention to his students (he's always got his nose buried in a copy of Sports Illustrated instead) and answers any question with "Un- huh." or "Go ahead.", which inadvertently results in Percy getting blamed for the damage that a group of Laistrygonian Giants did to the gym while trying to kill Percy and Tyson.
  • Public School Superhero has Mr. Hillcoat near the beginning of the book. He just orders his students to read from their textbooks while he sits back at his desk to watch SportsCentre on his iPad.
  • Glenn in Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor starts out this way. He doesn't want to work or leave the house at all due to trauma from his previous job (being in the magical equivalent of a black-ops squad and his former partner dying), and he especially doesn't want to be a magic teacher due to hating magic, but his guardian forces him into the position. He then slacks off and lets his students self-study while not bothering to answer their questions. He eventually starts taking his job seriously and becomes a Cool Teacher.

    Live-Action TV 
  • For a "Teacher" stand-up challenge on Mock the Week, Russell Howard portrays one, who says, "I don't know, Watson. I just do this shit for the holidays."
  • The Brady Bunch: Mr. Price, the dull old science teacher in "The Power of the Press" who had been derided by everyone (including Peter) for his weakening effectiveness and outdated teaching methods in the classroom. That is, until Peter gets a D on his science test and, all of a sudden, he decides that he's such a great teacher that he deserves to have a story written about him in the school newspaper. Of course, Peter's attempt at flattery doesn't work.
  • Walter White of Breaking Bad fame is generally shown as this, giving out halfhearted lectures and occasionally tossing questions to his bored students, not really caring if they pass or fail. Considering he's underpaid and overqualified, it's no wonder. Part of the reason he so happily jumps to meth-cooking is that it's a lot more exciting and makes a lot more use of his skills than just explaining atoms and the elements to a bunch of brats.
  • Skins:
    • Kieran. They even try to pack him off on a motivational course ("the Feeling, Healing, Teaching Program"). He functions as a confidant and wannabe father figure for Naomi — until he misreads the signals and tries to kiss her.
    • Most of the Roundview staff seem to be heading this way actually if they're not there already.
  • Very few of the characters in Teachers seem interested in doing any actual teaching.
  • In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Earl decides to go back to high school so he can learn what he needs to learn to get his GED. He finds that all the teachers there are apathetic, as they have been beaten down by mean students like Earl once was.
  • Community:
    • Professor Ian Duncan spends whole periods in his Intro to Anthropology class showing YouTube videos so that he doesn't have to teach. Although he's definitely apathetic, this particular example is less out of inherent apathy and more because he's actually a psychology professor who's been press-ganged into teaching an anthropology course and has no idea what he's doing; we never actually see him teach anything related to psychology, so it's possible he improves with material he's familiar with and interested in. Unlikely, but possibly.
    • Season four has Professor Cornwallis who used to be a tenured professor at Oxford until a sex scandal forced him to resign. Now, the only teaching job he can get is teaching history at Greendale Community College. He is extremely apathetic and sometimes verges on suicidal.
    • In the fifth season, Professor Buzz Hickey and Jeff, though he becomes a Cool Teacher eventually.
    • When he's not harassing his students, Senor Chang acts like one of these.
  • Apparently Nick Cutter from Primeval doesn't even turn up to his own classes. When Connor tells him this, he just says "Uh-huh" and walks off.
  • Although he isn't technically a teacher, Shaun the probation worker from Misfits — a world-weary and visibly bored Deadpan Snarker, charged with the task of supervising a group of juvenile delinquents — fits the type precisely.
  • A repeated sketch in The Armstrong and Miller Show (the Channel 4 show) was of a really Cool Teacher who was passionate, funny, and well-loved by his students... until the bell rang, at which point he'd become this, telling his students to "fuck off", abandoning any sort of life lesson he'd been teaching mere seconds ago, and in at least one example, directly contradicting it.
  • Mr Gilbert on The Inbetweeners goes between this and Sadist Teacher. He couldn't care less about his student's welfare, once noting that a pregnancy scare involving Neil was "a looming disaster for mankind but not his problem" and that the only reason anyone teaches is due to less strict background checks. This is made even better by the fact that Greg Davies, the actor who plays him, was a teacher for thirteen years. He is an apathetic teacher to most students (he may be a Jerkass, but he more or less goes for the live-and-let-live principle — if they shut up and behave, he'll leave them alone). He is a Sadist Teacher to Will, mainly because Will managed to insult him quite gravely on his (Will's) first day.
  • Ms. Park in True Jackson, VP. She is later even put in charge of being the janitor, play director, cafeteria cook, and football coach (simultaneously), and doesn't care about any of them.
  • Mr Budgen in Waterloo Road - he's been there for decades, despises the pupils, puts in only the bare minimum of effort, sometimes falls asleep in his own lessons, and has no time for any sort of innovation (or for the headteachers who impose it or colleagues who go along with it). He's still capable of being a very competent teacher, but most of the time you wouldn't think so, because he just doesn't care enough to demonstrate it. In the later seasons, he does get better, starting to care about at least some of his pupils and rediscovering his love of his subject. He never completely shakes off this trope, but the main apathetic teacher role passes to Mr Windsor.
  • Several of the teachers in The Wonder Years are long past the point of caring about their jobs or the students. For example, music teacher Mr. Frace has been assigned the job of leading the eighth-grade glee club, whom Adult Kevin describes as routinely turning the choir room into a "musical chamber of horrors" with their utter inability to sing in time or in tune with each other. When Mr. Frace concludes that they are collectively beyond any attempt at musical instruction, he simply leads them through a few warmups at the top of the hour while grimacing in pain as he accompanies them on the piano, then he draws the blinds and simply tells the students to study for the rest of the class.
  • A.P. Bio: This is the central premise of the show. Jack Griffin is a Harvard-educated philosophy professor who missed out on his dream position of teaching at Harvard, so he became a Jaded Washout, moved into his late mother's house, and got a job teaching one period of AP biology at a local high school. He shows up to class in sweat pants, refuses to teach biology, and spends each class period forcing his students to help him get revenge on the professor who took his job.
  • The Good Place: Chidi turns into this during his breakdown when he receives incontrovertible proof that the afterlife is real, he already died and went to the Bad Place once, and now that he knows this he has failed his second chance and will go to the Bad Place again when he dies. His students lampshade it, acknowledging that he's clearly going through something, and they're very sorry about that, but exams are coming up, so if he could teach them something, please? What results is a rant about Nihilism and how life is pointless.
    Chidi: ...You all get As or Fs. And there is no test. And you all failed it, and you all got As. Who cares? Good-bye.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Teacher's Aide", Miss Peters is the only teacher at her tough Inner City School who cares about the students and treats them with respect. Other teachers consider them to be animals and degenerates.

    Video Games 
  • Persona 5: Sadayo Kawakami, the main character's homeroom teacher, is this at the beginning of the game. She's unhappy about taking Joker as a student because she thinks that he's just going to be a delinquent and beyond that, she's very disinterested in her job. Completing her Confidant route involves discovering why she became this way and helping her get beyond it, causing her to regain her interest in teaching and helping her students, and turning her into a Cool Teacher again.

    Visual Novels 
  • Mutou of Katawa Shoujo occasionally gives this impression due to often being late and giving uninspired lectures, and Hisao thinks of him as such in Hanako's route, thinking that his willingness to let her leave class if necessary is proof that he doesn't care about her. Mutou is, however, actually concerned about his students, and in Hanako's good ending, Hisao comes to realize this.

    Web Comics 
  • Steve Parsons of Subnormality had a stint as one of these. Deconstructed when one of his students confronts him during a drug-induced breakdown about how he's basically fucking them all over and if he can't summon up enough energy to do his job properly he shouldn't be doing it at all.
  • Mr Garcia from Paranatural gives off this vibe. He's constantly sleepy (if not actually asleep), constantly in a bad mood, and constantly snarking about his students. How does he keep his job? He has tenure. Deep tenure.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Edna Krabappel is cynical, smokes while on duty, generally responds to her students' problems with snark or even flat out laughing at them (particularly Bart), thanks to a combination of having to deal with the children of Springfield (again, particularly Bart), and the school's endless stream of cutbacks for years. Though some episodes show that Edna still cares about trying to teach the kids deep down, under a ton of cynicism and snark it may be, and she and Bart have actually formed a closer bond than either of them would ever admit, despite his antagonism of her.
    • Miss Hoover, the second grade teacher Lisa's stuck with, makes Mrs. Krabappel look enthusiastic. One episode shows that once her tenure kicked in, she lets Ralph teach the class while she reads magazines. Another episode has her grading all her students' work with the press of a single button, as opposed to grading them individually (meaning that Ralph ends up with the same grade as Lisa, who is rightfully pissed off).
    • Reverend Lovejoy is also one, from a "pastors are also teachers" point of view. In his self-focused episode, we discover that he was once a vivacious man eager to spread the word of God in new, exciting ways...only to encounter Ned Flanders, who called Lovejoy morning, noon, and night to pester him with inane questions and irrational paranoia about going to Hell. After dealing with Ned's problems (and the general imbecility of Springfield's populace) for years, Lovejoy lost all of his passion and began phoning in his weekly sermons. In a sweet moment, though, the end of the episode has him saving Ned from a gorilla enclosure, rekindling a bit of his spark, and delivering a genuinely stirring speech about courage and faith in God, which has the whole congregation hanging on his every word.
    • Back when he was in kindergarten, Bart had a teacher whose open contempt and apathy towards him contributed to him being an underachieving class clown.
  • Principal Lewis from American Dad!. Lampshaded and justified in "Jenny Frohmdablok":
    Principal Lewis: Hey, Steve, I'm only telling a few people; I'm making belt buckles now if you want to buy one. Check it out!
    (displays bootleg Tweety Bird belt buckle with the caption "There Is No God")
    Steve: I really can't believe you're an educator, Brian.
    Princpial Lewis: My job's mostly administrative.
  • Carl Moss from King of the Hill is a particularly sleazy example of an Apathetic Principal. Cuts corners wherever he can, makes no effort to running his school, and doesn't care about any problem that comes to his attention unless it involves the possibility of losing his job.
  • Miss Sculptham on Moral Orel. She's shown to only do the bare minimum of her job, often refusing to "teach" her students about anything after class hours. Like most of the characters in the show, she has deeply rooted problems of her own.
  • Mr. Garrison from South Park has shades of this, if not contempt for his students.
  • Mrs. Puff from SpongeBob SquarePants flips flops on this depending on the writer. Though it's mostly her attitude toward SpongeBob since no matter what she does, she can't seem to get him to pass the driving portion of her test and out of her hair for good. His over-eagerness certainly doesn't help, neither does continually landing her in jail either.
  • Fangbone!: Ms. Gillian, the teacher for Bill and Fangbone's class, is this due to being perpetually exhausted by and dissatisfied with having to teach Eastwood Elementary's resident Wacky Homeroom.
  • Ms. Butterbean from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy who obviously doesn't care a lick about her job. She is also a Sadist Teacher, being cruel and verbally abusive towards the kids. One episode even shows that she lets Sperg, The Bully, get away with his actions as long as they bribe her with an apple.
  • Besides being a Sadist Teacher, Miss Simian from The Amazing World of Gumball admits in "The Butterfly" that she doesn't care about the children's education. You wouldn't either if you've been teaching since the Stone Age and had people attacking you for trying to teach subject matter considered subversive for its day, such as using the wheel and how to make fire.
  • The Owl House: While she does agree to teach Luz magic, Eda tends to not be very motivated into giving out actual lessons. Most of what Luz learns from her is by total accident. In some fairness, up until Luz learned the light spell, Eda didn't think humans could learn magic note . It also doesn't help that Luz's way of doing magic is so different from a normal witch that Eda had to study wild magic herself before she could teach Luz anything.


Video Example(s):


Teachers Love Not Going Home

Ms. La Bonz makes it clear to her students she does not like sacrificing her time for an overnight lock-in at an aquarium.

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