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MetLife Survey Aftermath: Parents' Role in Educator Satisfaction?

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Did you ever hear that saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy?" While painfully ungrammatical, it is sometimes still true.

One wonders how educators avoid generating such a trickle-down effect, given the reports of the rising tide of discontent they express about their careers.

In the wake of the release last month of the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, principals' and teachers' declining job satisfaction ratings are being discussed and debated.

Three out of four principals say they are likely to leave the profession in the next five years because their jobs have become too complex, and teacher morale is also on the decline—with 5 percent fewer teachers indicating that they are very satisfied with their jobs than made that statement last year. Analysis of the MetLife survey can be found in Education Week writer Liana Heitin's report.

Meanwhile, 73 percent of teachers and 72 percent of principals said it's hard to engage their communities to improve public schools. "Greater proportions of teachers and principals in high-needs, than in other, schools report that maintaining an adequate supply of effective teachers and engaging parents and the community present challenges for their school leaders," the MetLife report states.

For those of us who are parents, and because we are all members of the community, the question becomes, "How can we help?" Some possibilities:

  • Provide real-world problems for students to solve—This idea, buried in the report, reflects a theme from the Common Core State Standards. Specifically, the report says: "The signal from teachers that real-world problems for students to solve would be a particularly helpful tool for implementation of the standards may represent a practical opportunity for parents and communities, including businesses, to be supportive."

  • Reach out to teachers and principals offering a helping hand—Parents and the community need not wait to be engaged; they can proactively ask how they can be meaningfully engaged in schools. In his Education Week "Living in Dialogue" blog, former teacher Anthony Cody wrote that it is important for teachers to "reach out to allies." The post, entitled "How Can Teachers Overcome Depression and Strife?" continues: "Although it sometimes feels as if we are alone, there are people out there willing to help. We have to ask our parents, and members of the community." Why wait to be asked? Why not step up and volunteer?

  • Thank teachers and principals for what you've learned from them—This idea comes from Carol Lloyd, executive editor of The GreatSchools Blogs, who wrote "The thing I never thought I'd learn from teachers." That "thing" is how to be a better parent, from how to motivate her children to do chores, to how to make them more engaged in reading a book. Have you thanked a teacher today?

If you can think of other great ways for parents and the community to help teachers and principals, please share them in the comments section.

Read the full "MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership" report here. The annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher was conducted by telephone among 1,000 U.S. public school teachers of grades K through 12, and 500 U.S. school principals in public schools, grades K through 12, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 11.

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