The Changing Classroom: The “Find a Job That Makes You Happy” Effect

A unique challenge facing schools is that the majority of millennials that will enter the teaching force in the next two decades will not do so with a mindset that teaching will be their only career. Some will, but most won’t, and this isn’t limited to teaching. Job-hopping is a well documented phenomenon (here, here, and here), with the latest data naming “3 years” as the amount of time millennials expect to stay in a role. There are lots of factors contributing to this, but I believe that it stems in part from the “Find a Job That Makes You Happy” Effect.

This message is everywhere -- parents, relatives, teachers, TV shows. The “dad is forcing me to go to law school when all I really want to do is be an artist” is a trope that’s been around for centuries. This message is why ping pong tables, beer fridges, and nerf guns are becoming standard office equipment. It’s what led me to think that, as a Liberal Arts major, I was somehow superior to the kids in the Business School. (Don’t worry, the Universe has gotten its revenge with the ultimate karma of me trying to run a business without ever having taken an accounting course.)

We hop jobs because we expect that work should make us happy. This expectation sets up both the employee and employer for failure because a) “happiness” is defined differently by everyone and b) work is work! Sometimes a spreadsheet has to be filled out and, whether or not that makes you happy, it just has to get done.

As it pertains to schools and the future of the teaching force, there’s not a clear solution to address job-hopping. I believe the ultimate solution will be a combination of increasing teacher salaries, redesigning schools and classrooms, and restructuring the teacher preparation process. In the meantime, it’s also imperative that schools make the most of the teachers they have when they have them, and this is where teacher coaching comes in. If the average millennial teacher is expected to stay in the classroom for only 3-4 years, then they need to be coached to a high level of effectiveness as quickly as possible. Plus, by making teachers feel both supported, challenged, and engaged in their work, teacher coaches can potentially push an effective teacher to stay in the classroom for an additional 2-3 years, if not more.

What do you think? How else can teacher coaches help lengthen the amount of time teachers stay in the classroom? What other factors need to change to lengthen careers (both in education and outside)?

Libby Fisher is CEO of Whetstone Education.