Quick, easy and free: A few ideas for jumpstarting teacher job satisfaction

Coping mechanisms such as sending letters of gratitude and avoiding workplace gossip can help teachers manage stress.

If teacher stress is sinking job satisfaction in your district, consider deploying a batch of coping mechanisms that are not only positive and healthy but also “quick, easy and free.”

The following may sound obvious but it bears repeating: Teachers struggling with workplace stress are far less satisfied with their jobs than their less-frazzled colleagues, the University of Missouri researchers confirmed in a new survey of over 2,300 teachers from that state and Oklahoma. And stress, of course, leads straight to burnout and more teachers leaving the profession—both of which negatively impact student achievement, says researcher Seth Woods, who is also the principal of Beulah Ralph Elementary School in Missouri’s Columbia Public Schools.

“We need to start devoting more time and resources into helping teachers identify and adopt healthy coping mechanisms,” Woods says. “Finding ways to mitigate teacher stress and investing in ways to help them cope with stress in positive manners will pay us back in not having to constantly hire and train new teachers all the time.”

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Recent reports from several states show teacher shortages may now be reaching the crisis levels that had been feared—but had not quite occurred—as the COVID pandemic dragged on. Overall teacher turnover has hit historic a high in Washington, with rates reaching levels not seen in nearly 40 years of recording keeping. Teacher vacancies are rising in Virginia at the same time K12 enrollment is growing again.

Teachers are being lured away from their classrooms by employers such as the FBI and the hospitality and service industries.

Jumpstarting job satisfaction

Low pay and heavy workloads may be the leading drags on teacher job satisfaction but principals, superintendents and other administrators can also help educators find ways to improve their outlooks by, for instance, sending a short letter of gratitude to a colleague with whom they enjoy working, Woods says.

Avoiding gossip at work, learning more effective classroom management skills and committing to interacting more positively with students and peers, adds researcher Keith Herman, a professor at the University of Missouri’s College of Education and Human Development and author of Stress Management for Teachers: A Proactive Guide.

“Communicating with teachers about their concerns, demonstrating empathy and checking in on their health and well-being shows that you care,” Herman says. “Our overall goal is to create school environments that allow teachers to thrive and give them the tools they need to be successful.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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