Is teaching the secret to a good life?

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.

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6 Responses to Is teaching the secret to a good life?

  1. Brian Kessler says:

    There seems to be a political slant to everything in education these days, including the polling of it.

  2. My students do make me laugh and smile each day! And, I do often feel like quitting!! It is hard to work day after day at a job where you often are made to feel like a failure. Of course, those who make you feel that way have not generally ever walked a mile in your shoes. I do not have all the answers, but I do look forward to the day when politicians and leaders admit that they don’t have the answers either.

    Is teaching the secret to a good life? Not necessarily. For me, though, part of the secret is pouring yourself into something bigger than your own self. Right now, I find that when I am teaching my first graders.

    • I think that is why teachers are rated high on the well-being poll – because many like you are pouring themselves into something bigger. Most teachers love what they do and are always looking for ways to do it better. What I am hearing though is that most are often frustrated by the dictates that come from people as you said “have never walked a mile in their shoes” especially when the teacher knows immediately from experience that what they are being required to do will not work but instead will take away time from doing the things that do work.

  3. Grandmatoni says:

    I used to love teaching. One of the big plusses for me was the students — being able to use their creativity in learning was something I encouraged. Then everything changed and we now have to teach to a test. But more than that, parents have changed. Not all, but many, have gone from being supportive to criticizing every move. Don’t bother to criticize their children or try to teach them right from wrong. And then there’s the paperwork. Good teachers know their students. They have multiple ways to reach them. Maybe I’m an old fogie, but I’d really like to teach and not be bothered by politics, helicopter parents, and every little piece of data that comes down the pike!

    • I agree with you Grandmatoni! Just this month, we were given yet another data “tool” to complete. This data is already reported on two other forms! I feel that the data is only used to point out slow progress or lack of progress. I do know my students and they cannot be summed up on a spreadsheet! I make daily instructional decisions based on what I see my students doing.

    • You? An old fogie? I would call you experienced! You are echoing the sentiments of almost every teacher I have met over the past few months. We have so much data now that we don’t even have time to analyze it. We spend most of our time just collecting it which is further taking away from time better spent actually teaching.

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