Good News Friday: Teaching is FUNdamental

April 5, 2013, 11:48 am

It’s rare that you hear anything good about educators nowadays. If they aren’t huddled in the closet boosting students’ standardized test scores with an eraser and a number 2 pencil, teachers are pulling the Miss Jean Brodie thing, being charging little kids with assault and battery, or being arrested themselves for organizing extended, unnatural nap times.  Oh sure: every once in a while there’s a magazine feature about a hero teacher in a burned out district of a major American city who teaches sends former gang members on to MIT  by running his advanced calculus class as a hip hop poetry jam, but the next day we are back to  stories about middle school teachers who are so despised that their students conspired to poison them with hand sanitizer.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that, for all the kvetching and kvelling about teaching and teachers, the reality out there is (the envelope, please):

Teachers report greater overall job satisfaction than almost any other professional group. They rank fourth after physicians, business owners, and nurses. (I bet if they had surveyed Joe Biden, we would drop to fifth, since clearly he thinks being Veep is mad cool fun.)

According to Motoko Rich of the New York Times (March 27 2013), a Gallup poll that sought to measure “well being” reported that “teachers ranked above all other professions in answers to questions about whether they ‘smiled or laughed yesterday,’ as well as whether they experienced happiness and enjoyment the day before the survey.” This is a nice counterpoint from a recent MetLife survey that showed job satisfaction among teachers at a 25-year low. Rich points out, however that this “low” might not be so very low after. Although “39 percent of teachers were ‘very satisfied,’ down from 62 percent in 2008,” in the MetLife Survey “an additional 43 percent were still ‘somewhat satisfied,’ leaving only 17 percent somewhat or very dissatisfied.”

Taken together, the two surveys suggest that it’s nice work if you can get it:

With regard to overall job satisfaction, teachers ranked fourth, after physicians, business owners and nurses.

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, said that while certain lifestyle factors like longer vacations could contribute to teachers’ job satisfaction and sense of well-being, the actual work clearly drove their sentiments. In answer to the question, “At work, do you get to use your strengths to do what you do best every day, or not?” 91.5 percent of teachers polled answered “yes.”

“The mission and purpose of teaching and the rewards they get on a daily basis, such as happiness and laughing and learning a lot, is definitely driving well-being,” Mr. Busteed said.“The only thing that is keeping them back from being off the charts in well-being,” he said, “is that they are not being well managed.”

In other words, despite budget cuts, public disdain, union-busting pols, high stakes testing, Arne Duncan, rising class sizes and the NRA, teaching is still one of the best and most fun jobs ever.

I totally agree.


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