A qualitative inquiry of elementary charter school teachers’ experiences of coping and thriving
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This dissertation document is a manuscript-length document, which I plan to submit for publication to Teachers College Record in the fall of 2017. As a manuscript-length document, it is shorter than a traditional dissertation. In order to supplement the manuscript, I have included an expanded literature review and the study’s proposed methodology as an appendix following the manuscript. While research on stress in the teaching profession has a long history, researchers have only recently begun to investigate how some teachers thrive in their jobs. Such research has typically examined the experiences of all teachers, however, rather than focusing on those who maintain a sense of wellbeing at work. Extant literature has also found that charter school teachers leave the field at twice the rate of their traditional public school peers, leading some to believe that they have a more difficult time thriving as educators. Thus, the current study examined the experiences of certain charter school teachers who, theoretically, should have a sense of occupational wellbeing. Using the transactional model of stress as a framework, participants took a quantitative measure of risk for occupational stress, called the Classroom Appraisal of Resources and Demands (CARD). Qualitative methodologies were used to interview 16 elementary charter school teachers, whose CARD scores indicated that they were at lower and average risk for stress, about their experiences coping and thriving at school. Findings suggest that teachers use a variety of resources and strategies to cope, and that certain aspects of their school environments can contribute to their wellbeing. The study also points to two conclusions about the those with lower and those with average risk for stress. Teachers who were, based on the CARD, at lower risk for stress were indeed coping and thriving. Findings for teachers at an average risk for stress were mixed, however. While some seemed to have the personal and professional resources they needed to cope well, others seemed to be overwhelmed by the demands of their jobs. Implications for future research, as well as limitations, are provided.