What Makes Teachers Happy?

Teachers do more than teach. They foster social responsibility, broaden imaginations, and offer encouragement and support. The way a teacher perceives his or her job can directly impact any influence on students—academically, behaviorally, and emotionally. In previous research, elements such as teaching efficacy, overall stress, and job satisfaction have been looked at as markers of teacher well-being. However, school climate—the environment of the school support, staff interaction, and student behavior and attitude—has not been thoroughly examined relative to teacher well-being. Rebecca J. Collie of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia thought analyzing how school climate was perceived by teachers, and how it affected efficacy, satisfaction, and stress, was an important and overlooked area of research.

Collie recently led a study in which she surveyed 664 middle and elementary school teachers. She asked them to describe how they perceived their school climates and how it affected their perceptions of their own abilities, satisfaction with their jobs, and stress. She also asked the teachers to report how they felt about social-emotional learning (SEL), a relatively new aspect of teaching that encourages teachers to build social, emotional, and moral foundations into the academic platform. With regard to stress, Collie looked specifically at stress arising from student behavior and workload stress.

The results revealed that SEL was important to teacher efficacy and satisfaction. The teachers that felt most comfortable with delivering SEL components had lower levels of stress and higher levels of self-efficacy and job satisfaction. When Collie looked at school climate, she found that teachers who felt they had motivated and well-behaved students reported less stress and, again, high levels of satisfaction and efficacy. Student behavior problems directly increased stress and decreased efficacy. Increases in stress decreased job satisfaction, and workload stress decreased overall efficacy.

Collie noted that the results from this study, although robust in nature, were not without limitations. In particular, there is no way to determine if the teachers interpreted the questions as they were intended. In addition, the responses could have been biased, as the teachers were not assessed for uniqueness that could have influenced their answers. Despite these factors, Collie believes these findings are significant and can have a big impact on student and teacher outcomes. “The findings clearly indicate that researchers and policy makers need to consider the complexity of relationships among variables when examining or implementing policy related to teacher well-being and motivation,” she said.

Collie, Rebecca J., Jennifer D. Shapka, and Nancy E. Perry. School climate and social-emotional learning: Predicting teacher stress, job satisfaction, and teaching efficacy. Journal of Educational Psychology 104.4 (2012): 1189-204. Print.

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  • Zoe


    November 28th, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    If I were a teacher, I believe that the one thing that would make me the happiset of all would be to have more parents who had my back. The love of learning could start in school but I am a firm believer that this has to be encouraged and nurtured at home. There is no way that any teacher, no matter how good you are, can get through to a student without having some kind of firm foundation to build upon, That, I believem starts in the home. Parents have to consistently monitor their kids progress in school and keep the lines of communication open with the teacher. Yes, the teacher wants to help children learn and acquire skills but we can’t put up so many barriers that it makes it impossible for them to do their jobs. I think that if parents were more of a help at home, then there wouldn’t be half as many students and teachers who are kind of left to find their own way, because parental involvement and support would make it so much easier for everyone.

  • liz


    November 28th, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    there’s so many factors affecting a teacher at the workplace.so many factors affecting their satisfaction and their ability to contribute fully.its not just money that makes someone happy at work it’s the environment to a large extent.and teachers are no different.

  • pablo


    November 29th, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    having seen a couple of teachers leave my school due to the crazy students there made me really sad.they were great teachers but some people just don’t get it,do they.everybody deserves to be treated with respect and empathy, and a teacher’s job is tough,tough as nuts, you’re not helping by making it difficult for the teacher!

  • Iris


    November 29th, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    Don’t think that there is a teacher out there who would turn down loads of support from wherever they can get it. We are talking from the students to parents and administartion all the way to the community and their families at home. Teaching is a very difficult job, even though very few people other than those on the front lines realize just how hard it can be. We need that constant reassurenace that we are helping our students and that we are reaching them in every way that we possibly can. The only way that this can effectively be a success is to have to support comint at you from every angle. Leave no stone unturned, for the education of our children is too valuable to allow to go to waste.

  • M.G


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Teachers have some of the toughest jobs out there,period.And also,their job satisfaction and levels of stress has an effect not only on them but on numerous students that they teach.They deserved nothing but the best,not just from the school management but also from students and parents too.This is something that I see fading actually in modern times and we need to buckle up and quick!

  • samantha


    November 30th, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    well the results aren’t surprising.but how well are such results used by schools to actually improve the condition for teachers?because it is not just for the betterment of teachers,but also the students,and thereby the entire school and on a larger scale the education system.teachers and their satisfaction levels have a far broader implication than just at an individual level.

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