Laughing, But Not to the Bank

In a recent Gallup Poll teachers were found to have a relatively high sense of “well being” compared to other workers. In fact, teachers ranked second only to physicians on Gallup’s “Life Evaluation Index” score. This score is a composite of self-reported ratings on a range of topics, including physical and emotional health, job enjoyment, workplace environment, etc. Over 170,000 people were surveyed including 9,500 teachers in grades k-12.

I’m not completely surprised by these findings. If I just use my own school as a case study, I see that my colleagues are happy, engaged, and laugh a lot. We enjoy each other’s company and we love working with students. I did find myself wondering, however, about the issue of salary. Have teachers simply given up on getting paid more? Why are teachers not more frustrated and angry? How did our well being get so good?

And then I decided to poke around a little on the Gallup website and found an interesting excerpt:

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.

Hmmm. Unusual indeed. I wonder if anyone over at the Gallup offices ever stopped to consider that part of the stress may have something to do with NOT making enough money. We’ve all heard teachers say things along the lines of “I’ve been so stressed out, things at home are really hard, my son this, my mother that, my dog, my car…….but it all seems to magically go away when I get into the classroom with my kids. They really make everything so much better.” 

I think we are in denial. I think that we think that if we complain too much about the lack of real commitment to the salary of the American teacher, that we will be accused of doing it for the wrong reasons. I think that Gallup’s use of the word “unusual” when describing the stress level that teachers experience, considering their lowly salaries, should be changed to the word “wrong”.

It is just plain wrong that teachers have to experience the stress that they do at work and NOT have the relief of a solid nest egg, a healthy paycheck, or a much-needed vacation (a real vacation, people, not the eight weeks of summer that many teachers spend planning or teaching summer school).

But who needs money when there’s such a big payoff for those who are able to incorporate regular exercise into their schedules as a means of stress reduction?


Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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