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May 9, 2022

Feeling Like You Matter: A Checklist for Teachers

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Educators can take steps to increase the sense of “mattering” and belonging in their schools.
School Culture
Professional Learning
Feeling Like You Matter: A Checklist for Teachers
The end of the school year provides a natural time to reflect on the events and feelings (both good and bad) of the past year. As you spend time reflecting, it is important to recognize the sense of how you matter to your colleagues. A strong sense of mattering is critical to career longevity and enjoyment. Without a solid foundation of mattering, wellness initiatives will only serve as a limited reprieve from the daily stress of teaching. 
Research shows that an increased sense of mattering to someone reduces overall stress.  Depression symptoms, and the risk of depression, decrease as a person's sense of mattering increases. Studies also indicate that a higher sense of mattering leads to higher job satisfaction, regardless of the profession. For educators, mattering increases the feeling of collective teacher efficacy, teacher self-efficacy, organizational health, and a positive school culture. 
My colleague and I uncovered eight elements needed for teachers to feel like they matter to their colleagues. Each of the elements are discussed in-depth in our article “How Mattering Matters for Educators” in the November 2021 issue of Educational Leadership
The elements include:  
  • Community: Job-focused teamwork that creates energy and a sense of belonging. 
  • Authenticity: The ability to be the same person at work and at home. 
  • Flow: The enjoyment of an activity so much that a person loses track of time. 
  • Purpose: A feeling that one is fulfilling their mission and passion. 
  • Assimilation: Integrating necessary but unpleasant tasks with one’s own values to achieve a goal. 
  • Jobcrafting: The capability to make subtle changes to the work environment to meet individual needs. 
  • Jobstability: Knowing the job is secure and not likely to disappear or change radically. 
  • Compensation: Pay that is fair and equitable based on experience and educational attainment
For mattering in schools to fully work, change and support at the organizational level are often required. But the issue not totally out of the control of teachers. There are some things teachers can do to help increase their sense of mattering and the sense of mattering in their colleagues. I developed a graphic called the “Foundational Elements of Mattering Scale for Teachers” to help teachers and school leaders identify areas that may need attention. This summer, you might also try using the following checklist to guide your thinking and reflection—and take active steps toward prioritizing mattering in your work. 

Mattering: A Summer Checklist for Teachers

Ensuring that you have a strong sense of mattering is crucial to your health and well-being. It is too important to leave to chance. This summer, as you are reflecting on the highs and lows of the past academic year, take some time to think about the ways you feel you matter—and the ways that you can show others that they matter, too. 

Shelly Wilfong is the assistant superintendent for Wawasee Community School Corporation in Syracuse, Indiana.

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