How Mattering Matters for Educators

By Ryan Donlan and Shelly Wilfong

People are the backbone of education, yet the challenges in recent years, coupled with frequent external criticism, has defined the teaching profession more as a problem to be managed rather than a calling to be celebrated. Books and articles attempt to address teacher disillusionment and dissatisfaction. Educators have applied influential approaches to their work from books such as Grit by Angela Duckworth (Scribner, 2016), Find Your Why by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2017), and Mindset by Carol Dweck (Random House, 2006). But even with the value of these powerful research-to-practice considerations, progress is slow. What if there was something else—a different framework available to identify how teachers can find more teaching satisfaction and enjoyment?

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As both practitioners and scholars interested in teacher well-being, we believe that the concept of “mattering” holds the key to collective efficacy in schools. Mattering is the feeling that our actions are significant and we would be missed if we were gone. It is the belief that another person cares about what we want, think, and do, and is concerned with our fate. Elliott et al. (2004) stated that mattering is “the perception that, to some degree and in a variety of ways, we are a significant part of the world around us” (p. 339). It’s been shown that a sense of mattering leads to lower stress, while a lack of mattering leads to depression (Taylor & Turner, 2001).