An exploration of stress, job satisfaction, individual teacher and school factors among Teach For America teachers
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Current research suggests that the attrition rate for novice teachers continues to rise and that chronic stress plays a significant role (Ingersoll, 2001; Klassen & Chiu, 2011). While stress in educational settings is widely acknowledged, specific factors contributing to teacher stress are not well understood (McCarthy, Lambert, O’Donnell, & Melendres, 2009). To address this gap in the literature, data were collected from 51 novice teachers (Teach For America corps members and alumni; mean years’ teaching experience = 2.04) to explore vulnerability to stress, job satisfaction, preventive coping resources, perfectionism, and school context (charter vs. district). Results demonstrated that this sample of teachers reported higher than average demands and stress levels, and lower than average levels of classroom resources. Data also suggested higher levels of preventive coping were related to lower perceptions of classroom demands and lower perfectionism scores. Additionally, higher levels of perfectionism were related to lower perceptions of classroom resources. Participants were classified into groups (Resource, Demand, & Balance) based on scores on perceptions of classroom demands and resources. Membership in the Demand group exceeded average numbers found in previous studies. Preventive coping did not differ significantly between members of the Demand group and non-members of the Demand group, though the Demand group had significantly higher perfectionism and significantly lower job satisfaction scores. Finally, while differences in perceived demands were not significantly different by school context, teachers at charter schools showed significantly higher perceived resources. These findings highlight the need to provide a more complex understanding of factors placing novice teachers at risk for occupational stress and could inform decisions on how best to support them.