Shayla CarewFollow




School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Tim Nelson


Ecological Systems Theory, Low Job Satisfaction, Middle Schools, Rural Schools, Veteran Teacher, Phenomenological


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences of rural veteran middle school teachers in Tennessee with low job satisfaction. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (EST) was the theoretical framework guiding this study. EST is composed of five environmental systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. This study included participation from 10 veteran teachers with 5 or more years of experience who demonstrated low job satisfaction in Tennessee according to the results of a questionnaire given prior to conducting the study. The central research question guiding this study was, What are veteran middle school teachers’ perceptions of job satisfaction as a lived experience in rural Tennessee? The four subquestions were designed to investigate how teacher workload, collegial experience, administrative leadership and support, and student behavior impact job satisfaction. Data for this study were collected through individual interviews, an online focus group interview, and a reflective journal, and produced four major themes: (a) unrealistic expectations, (b) middle school environment, (c) students, and (d) middle school teacher challenges. The findings revealed participants’ perceived administrators and policy makers had unrealistic expectations on their teachers due to being disconnected from their teachers. The findings also indicated participants’ environment at the middle school level was challenging as they dealt with the basic needs of students before educating them. Participants expressed that collegial support was vital to the profession and that they loved teaching but had negative perceptions about the challenges they often encounter on the job.