Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Job Satisfaction: Perceptions of a National Sample of Teachers of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Job Satisfaction: Perceptions of a National Sample of Teachers of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Article excerpt

The study examined the perceptions of a national sample of teachers of students who are deaf or hard or hearing to assess their level of job satisfaction. A questionnaire was developed and distributed; 610 completed surveys were analyzed. Overall, respondents appeared satisfied with their jobs. Of the 59 items in the survey, 51 were scored as positive for the group as a whole. Participants reported that their relationships with colleagues were the most enjoyable aspect of the job. Paperwork, state assessment tests, and lack of family involvement were identified as the least satisfying aspects. Data were also analyzed by comparing the responses of teachers across groups-itinerant, elementary, secondary, and resource room. Generally, this group-by-group analysis produced findings similar to those for the overall sample. Recommendations on addressing the specific factors that teachers responded to negatively are provided.

Teaching is one of society's most important occupations. It is the one profession that focuses energy and attention on our most precious resources-children and youth. Teachers have the opportunity to influence the lives of individuals regardless of their ethnicity, cultural background, socioeconomic status, or ability level. As such, teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible. The essential role of teachers has been summarized by Kozleski, Mainzer, and Deschler (2000): "Whether in special education or general education, there is growing evidence that the single most important influence in a student's education is a well-prepared, caring, and qualified teacher" (p. 1).

While teaching is an essential profession, it is also one that is currently experiencing a great deal of external pressure.

There seems to be a general perception that there are serious problems with public education and that major structural changes are needed to fix these problems. Particularly since 1983, when the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, the effectiveness of public education programs has been challenged by policymakers, business leaders, education professionals, and the public. The report featured data showing that American students were falling behind students from other nations on a variety of educational measures. Since then, there has been a strong education reform movement focusing on more academically challenging standards for graduation, new curriculum frameworks to guide instruction, and new assessments for testing students' knowledge as well as for making school administrators and teachers accountable for student success or failure.

Concurrently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (popularly known as IDEA '97) have mandated that all students with disabilities are to participate in the general education curriculum, that they must be included in state and districtwide educational assessments, and that their scores must be reported as part of the educational results for all students. States must document the number of students participating in the tests, report on their performance, and develop alternate assessments for students unable to participate in existing state or district tests. These increased societal pressures, along with the requirement to educate more students, with more challenges, to higher levels of learning than at any time in the past century (Reeves, 2000), are significantly changing the working conditions of teachers.

Working conditions can seriously affect teachers' morale, level of effort, and quality of work. Negative responses to day-to-day work may lead teachers to leave the profession, or to remain but simply reduce their overall involvement and effort while lowering their expectations for students (Gersten, Keating, Yovanoff, & Harniss, 2001). Yee (1990) refers to this as "retiring on the job" (p. 120). This problem was recently summarized in a document issued by the Council for Exceptional Children: "Poor teacher working conditions contribute to the high rate of special educators leaving the field, teacher burnout, and substandard quality of education for students with special needs" ("CEC Launches Initiative," 1998, p. …

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