In this attempt, in Part two, to capture and present to others the lived experience of primary teachers’ work, I turn first to the aspects of it that they enjoy. There is one main reason why this is an appropriate place at which to start. Many of my interviewees claimed that in making their choice of profession they had consciously looked for one in which job satisfaction was said to be high, even if monetary recompense was low. Primary teaching, they reported, had that reputation. As a result, they tended to embark on their work expecting to find much of it rewarding. It therefore seems logical to examine whether or not their expectations were met, and for what reasons.
I encountered several difficulties in the process. The first was a conceptual one. As a topic for enquiry, teachers’ job satisfaction has been largely ignored. Partly in consequence, it lacks clarity of definition. Only Poppleton (1988) offers an incisive analysis: distinguishing satisfaction with secondary teaching as an occupation and as a professional career; and differentiating between the rewards of classroom teaching, those of the job presently held, those of the school in which respondents were currently teaching, and those of likely career advancement. Studies of satisfaction among primary teachers (e.g. Jackson 1968; Lortie 1975, in the USA; Galloway et al. 1982, in New Zealand; Primary Schools Research and Developmental Group (PSRDG) 1986, in England) do not make these distinctions. Nor is discussion of the causes of job satisfaction convincing when the latter derive, as they often do from questionnaire items which have not been generated by teachers themselves. Accordingly, I have joined Lortie (1975: 89) in accepting that ‘the level of satisfaction is thought of as summarising the person’s assessment of his total rewards in teaching’ and have, for example, taken primary teachers’ self-reports of ‘the most personally rewarding aspects of their work’ (PSRDG 1986) to be synonymous with their chief sources of job satisfaction.