Thomas R. Hoerr
Is Your School Happy?
If teachers are
far more likely to
Thomas R. Hoerr
school.org) is head
of school at the New
City School, 5209
Waterman Ave., St.
Louis, MO 63108. He is
the author of The Art
of School Leadership
(ASCD, 2005) and
for the Future (NAIS
Ijust read an article that identified the 10 hap- piest cities in the world. 1 The criteria used were the number of cultural attractions,
parks, and shopping areas. We can quibble
about these factors—what about libraries or
crime rates?—but it’s interesting to consider
what might make the residents of a city happy.
The article got me thinking about what
factors make a happy school. Specifically, what
causes teachers to enjoy their jobs and want
to come to work each day? This is not an idle
question. Teaching is a challenge under the best
of circumstances (and most
of us don’t work in the best
of circumstances). Being
happy doesn’t mean that a
teacher will be effective, but
an unhappy teacher is likely
to perform poorly.
I’m not suggesting that
a principal’s job is to make
teachers happy. A principal’s
job is to ensure that children
learn, and that means supporting teacher growth.
If teachers are growing
and learning, they’re far
more likely to be effective—and thus, happy.
Happiness is a by-product of success.
You may recall Frederick Herzberg’s studies of
job satisfaction. 2 Herzberg found that the factors
contributing to job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are entirely different. Dissatisfaction
occurred when employees experienced what
Herzberg called “hygiene factors,” such as insufficient pay, an uncomfortable workplace, poor
supervision, and a lack of satisfaction from the
work. Improving the hygiene factors reduced
job dissatisfaction but didn’t contribute to job
satisfaction. Job satisfaction comes from what
Herzberg called “motivation factors”—a sense of
achievement, responsibility, and recognition.
So what can principals do to increase the
motivation factors that are integral to teachers’
job satisfaction and happiness? First, both
simplest and hardest, we need to make teacher
happiness a priority. We should want more
teachers smiling more often! It’s simple, but it’s
also hard because so much of our time is spent
responding and doing the things that we must
do. From building schedules to racing to the top
with standardized tests, from ordering supplies
to dealing with recalcitrant students, sometimes
it seems like all we can do is stay afloat.