A colleague recently sent me a New York Times article entitled “Beleaguered? Not Teachers, a Poll on ‘Well-Being’ Finds” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/education/in-poll-on-well-being-teachers-rank-high.html?_r=0). The article indicates that claims of teachers feeling unhappy and demoralized are overrated according to a recent Gallup Poll on well-being. This poll, based on interviews of over 172,000 people determined that teachers rank second only to physicians in well-being.
I was somewhat surprised by this information given that the recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/foundation/MetLife-Teacher-Survey-2012.pdf) showed that job satisfaction for teachers had dropped to a twenty-five year low. The MetLife survey certainly verified what I have heard from teachers in school visits across the state.
But then I looked more closely at some of the lines in the article. And I looked at the Gallup blog (http://thegallupblog.gallup.com/2013/03/teaching-may-be-secret-to-good-life.html) that referenced the survey. Then it all began to make sense.
Teachers are the most likely of any profession to say that they smiled or laughed a lot yesterday. Not surprising. Can you spend a day with a room full of kids and not laugh or smile multiple times. Sure those same kids may frustrate at times, but they never fail to bring a laugh and a smile.
I remember rehashing the day with my daughter once. I was talking about some of my frustrations at work. Then I started talking about my students. She said, “Mom, I can tell you love your job because every time you talk about your kids, your face lights up.”
Just like the poll indicates – teachers are the most likely to say that they experienced happiness or joy yesterday. Teachers also rank number two in saying that they learned or did something new yesterday. That’s teaching – always trying new approaches, growing through professional development, and, yes, learning from our students – even those little tykes in Kindergarten.
So when asked these questions, it is not surprising that teachers rank high on the scale of well-being. If the poll ended there, we could surmise that teachers are perfectly content in their careers.
But the poll does not end there.
Teachers rank near the bottom of the poll on work environment. They rank dead last in saying that their supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open. They also rank dead last in saying that they were treated with respect all day yesterday. Teachers experience the second highest stress level across all occupations.
This matches what I hear over and over again. It echoes what is said in every building I visit. It repeats what I have felt and what I hear expressed by my sisters who are teachers.
“I still love my students. I still want to teach my students. I just don’t know though if I can continue to deal with the outside pressures that are preventing me from doing what I love.
The Gallup blog goes on to lay the blame on the fact that we have too few good leaders. This might be a piece of it. Leadership is critical Let’s be fair though. School leaders are under a great deal of pressure too. The pressures, the additional strains, the feelings of not being respected are coming from outside the schoolhouse walls – from policymakers, media, politicians, right-wing groups, and a whole slew of other people who think they know more about teaching than the people who are educated in the field and have dedicated their lives to doing the job.
But maybe that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Are you a teacher? What makes you laugh and smile each day? Do you ever feel like quitting? Why? Is teaching the secret to a good life?
It’s time to tell your story. We can’t write the next chapter until we let the readers know what the context of the current story.
Please share below.