How much effect does our work environment have on our job satisfaction? That was the main question asked by Earthman and Lemasters (2009) in a thought-provoking article about teacher satisfaction. The concept was simple: Compare attitudes about teaching among educators and see if the quality of the work environment makes a difference. The first step was to place the teachers into groups: “satisfactory” schools and “unsatisfactory” schools. Then, 165 teachers completed a survey measuring 23 factors of perceptions and attitudes about the learning environment. Factors included aspects such as furniture, lighting, room temperature, and cleanliness.
Not surprisingly, teachers from satisfactory buildings had significantly better attitudes than those from unsatisfactory. However, this begs the question of whether positive attitudes are increased by better facilities, or if facilities are perceived better because of positive attitudes. Teachers have a high level of resilience toward their work environment, and people with positive attitudes overcome obstacles and improve their environments wherever they find themselves. However, we must also recognize that there are only so many factors of the work environment a teacher can control.
I benefitted from studying this article because it caused me to re-evaluate several aspects of my facility and ask myself if there is more I could be doing to improve my school buildings. Positive attitudes in teachers trickle down to students, and students with positive attitudes learn better! Teachers ought to be looking for ways to improve classrooms, increase the attractiveness of learning, and build a positive atmosphere. However, it is ultimately up to me, the school leader, to foster satisfied teachers who transfer positivity to the learning environment. One of my mantras has been to never stop improving, but what have I done to improve this environment today?
Earthman, G. I., & Lemasters, L. K. (2009). Teacher attitudes about classroom conditions. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(3), 323-335.