What Motivates Teachers?
“A recent Gallup poll of 170,000 Americans — 10,000 of whom were teachers — found that teaching is the second most satisfying profession (after medicine). Ironically, the sameGallup poll found that in contrast to their overall happiness with their jobs, teachers often rate last or close to the bottom for workplace engagement and happiness.
“Of all the professions we studied in the U.S., teachers are the least likely to say that their opinions count and the least likely to say that their supervisor creates an open and sharing environment,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, at the Next New World Conference.”
U.S. Teachers Love Their Lives, but Struggle in the Workplace
Teachers rank eighth out of 14 occupation types in rating their work environment
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians. They have an average Life Evaluation Index score of 68.8, besting workers in most other types of jobs, including managers and executives, nurses, and business owners.
The research is based on interviewing conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which consists of six sub-indexes that measure Americans’ physical, emotional, and financial health. The nation’s teachers score higher than almost all occupational groups on life evaluations plus four of the other five areas of wellbeing — including emotional health, healthy behaviors, basic access, and physical health. In life evaluations, emotional health, and basic access specifically, teachers come in second — trailing only physicians, who typically earn a much higher salary. The one area in which teachers do not score as well is work environment. More generally, teachers earn the second-highest score on the overall Well-Being Index, which is based on all six sub-components, as Gallup and Healthways previously reported.
These findings are based on more than 170,000 interviews conducted from January through December 2012 with employed Americans at least 18 years of age, including 9,467 K-12 teachers.
Teachers Are in Great Emotional Health
Although workers in all professions score well on the Emotional Health Index, teachers share the second-place rank with farming, fishing, and forestry workers, trailing only physicians on this dimension. Service workers rank last.
Teachers’ high level of emotional health reflects a lot of positive daily experiences, without a lot of negative ones. Teachers experience more enjoyment than those in other professions, including physicians. And they are the most likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot yesterday, at 88%. Still, teachers report high levels of stress, second only to physicians, with 47% saying they experience it daily. This is unusual, given the fact that stress typically climbs with income, and draws attention to the potential emotional health burden that teaching carries for those who pursue it. It also suggests a bigger payoff for teachers who are able to incorporate regular exercise into their schedules as a means of stress reduction.
Teachers Struggle With Their Work Environments
Despite earning top marks in most areas of wellbeing, teachers’ answers to various questions about their workplace produces a 49.9 Work Environment Index score, which is eighth out of 14 occupation groups. The nation’s educators rank sixth in saying their “supervisor treats me more like a partner than a boss.” And they are dead-last –14th – in saying their “supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open.”
Along with another female-dominated profession — nurses — teachers lag far behind business owners, who hold the top spot in terms of Work Environment Index scores.
These findings are in line with Gallup’s employee engagement index, which also shows that teachers are about middle-of-the-pack in terms of how they feel about their work and workplaces. About seven in 10 teachers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their work environment. Thirty-one percent are engaged. As teacher engagement is the No. 1 predictor and driver of student engagement, these findings have serious implications for students and administrators.
Teachers have high personal wellbeing, as evidenced by their high life evaluations and emotional wellbeing scores, and this may prove beneficial to their students and the broader community. It is unclear whether the relatively higher scores of teachers on several measures of wellbeing are because working in that profession enhances one’s wellbeing, or if people who have higher wellbeing in general seek out teaching professions.Prior research, however, has demonstrated the significant role that the workplace plays in wellbeing outcomes.
Still, teacher’s low workplace wellbeing, relative to other professional occupations, indicates school and community leaders have important issues to address in the school workplace in order for teachers and students to reach their full potential. It is absolutely critical to raise teachers’ workplace engagement, because their engagement is the No. 1 predictor and driver of student engagement, which Gallup research shows impacts student wellbeing and academic success.
The positive news is that these workplace struggles can be addressed. Teachers and school leaders need to work together to improve the work environment.
About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks wellbeing in the U.S. and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit well-beingindex.com.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”
For more details on Gallup’s polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.