Worker satisfaction has seemed to decrease across all industries over the past year or two. The job market was and still is weak, lay-offs were common across the board and the slow economy wasn’t helping any. However, it is not just these factors working against employee dissatisfaction, but also the effects these factors have on overall life happiness and our well-being. With less money being funneled into our economy and more people losing their jobs, there’s sure to be heightened financial issues that effect family life and happiness. Perhaps we can credit these additional factors to the heavy decline in work satisfaction among teachers over the past two years. According to reports, the teachers of our country are much less satisfied with their jobs than they were in recent years.
The latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher involved telephoning over a thousand teachers across the country in order to assess their job satisfaction levels. They found that only 44 percent of teachers in the U.S. were satisfied with their jobs. This is an interesting drop from the 59 percent of teachers that were satisfied with their jobs back in 2009. The difference in the percentage over the last two years is a record drop and gives us the lowest satisfaction rate among teachers in 20 years. Furthermore, the percentage of teachers that claimed they planned on leaving their job in the next five years increased 12 percent. Back in 2009, 17 percent of teachers planned on leaving their job and now that percentage is up to 29.
The dissatisfaction among teachers is definitely disheartening but the Atlantic, the site that published the article on the report, seems to think it is unsurprising. Right off the bat it’s easy to think that the teachers that are dissatisfied with their work likely teach in lower-income neighborhoods or are older, veteran teachers. However, the report showed that there is not a very large difference in the years of experience, the amount of students that came from low-income families or the grade levels of the teachers that were satisfied and those that were dissatisfied. This would be an easy assumption to make on anyone’s part, but the report aims at other reasons for teachers dissatisfaction.
The report did show that there was a significant difference in the day-to-day experience between teachers that were satisfied and those that were not. Teachers that recently had an increase in the number of students in their classes and teachers that worked in a district that experienced increased lay-offs were more dissatisfied than teachers that did not. This is an easy correlation to make since lay-offs in a company or, for teachers a district, is likely to cause employees to feel nervous and insecure in their job. That itself leads to a decrease in satisfaction so when you add a heavier workload, or more students, to the mix the increased dissatisfaction should not be surprising.
The report also pointed to family issues with students as a reason for heightened dissatisfaction. Teachers that were dissatisfied experienced more of their students coming to class hungry and worked with more students whose families needed social service help. When you have unhappy students that are not like to focus or care about their work more since they have hunger and well-being issues on their mind, the stress on the teacher is increased as well. Conversely, teachers that had better communication with a student’s parents and had a better plan in place for including parents in their children’s education were much more satisfied with their work.
To add to the list of reasons, the teachers that reported being dissatisfied with their job did not think that their peers viewed them as professionals. Of the teachers that were dissatisfied, 68 percent of them said they felt their peers viewed them as professionals while 90 percent of satisfied workers said the same thing. The report by MetLife clearly shows a direct correlation between the weak economy and job market to the satisfaction of teachers in the public school system. As the economy and job market weakened, the strain on the teachers of this company increased. If looked at as any kind of office job, an increase in workload, lay-offs rampant in the company, feeling unequal among your co-workers and taking on the stress of increased social issues in the office would dissatisfy any worker.
“I don’t think people will necessarily be surprised that the survey results confirm there have been deep cuts within education budgets,” said Dana Markow, vice president of youth and education research at Harris Interactive, the company that conducted the survey. “But when you see how many teachers and schools have been affected, when you hear it in the context at the local level — whether they’re having layoffs or discussions with their unions about changes to their salaries and benefits — you start to build a national picture.”