What if teachers’ job satisfaction really matters?

May 11, 2010 at 10:46 am 1 comment

by Alec Patton

A proposition: There is no single aspect of school more important than whether teachers find their work enjoyable and fulfilling.

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I think it may well be correct – it goes back (as do an embarrassing number of ‘my’ ideas) to something Malcolm Gladwell wrote. This comes from the acknowledgements at the end of Outliers:

This is a book about the meaning of work, and I learned that work can be meaningful from my father. […] My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy. I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child.

When I read this, it immediately rang true – we learn what ‘work’ and ‘having a job’ mean by observing our parents. I was lucky – my father was a composer with a studio at home, and my mother is an Elementary school counsellor who sometimes brought me into school with her. Their jobs inspired creativity, demanded hard work, and led to meaningful outcomes. The world of work infused our family’s life without dominating it – work and life were a patchwork, rather than two discrete entities held in balance.

But most parents don’t have jobs that they can share with their families – and for many parents, work isn’t ‘meaningful’ according to the Gladwell definition – in fact, plenty of people hate their jobs, and there’s no easy fix for that. So, in the absence of their parents, kids are only going to have the opportunity to ‘learn that work can be meaningful’ from the people they spend every working day with – their teachers.

This means that each day, an entire generation of children is watching today’s teachers, and learning what it means to have a job. The well-being of their teachers will determine whether we are giving them a ‘gift’, in Gladwell’s language, or saddling them with a burden.


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Uncategorized.

A Good Day To Bury A SATS Boycott Learning Futures has a new pamphlet out!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mary Ruth McGinn  |  May 12, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Wow Alec. This was the perfect message for today . . . as last week was teacher appreciation week in our school system, I did not feel very appreciated. I do now. Thanks.


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