Among the pandemic of crises—COVID, misinformation, supply chain disruptions—one looms large in every corner of the globe: teacher burnout and the rising threat to teachers’ mental health. This month, we explore these issues—how serious, how widespread, and how to do something about it. First, the “what?” (What do the surveys and studies show?); then the “Why?” (what is causing the phenomenon), and last the “What now?” (How to do something about it). You may find the last link on the Happy Teacher Revolution Movement the most uplifting.
- Record number of teachers experiencing burnout – If you fear burnout, you’re not alone. This month’s Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine reports that “sick leave has doubled among Toronto teachers,” and B.C. school counsellor Sarah Bourdon described her experience working through the pandemic as a ‘burnout roller coaster.’ Citing a new report, she says, “Many educators are exhausted and experiencing severe burnout. I think many people are struggling to remember what they love about their jobs.” The same reports indicates the severity of the problem: “80.5 per cent of teachers in British Columbia said that their mental health were slightly or significantly worse compared to before the pandemic. And 22.9 per cent experienced mental distress, with 56.5 per cent having experienced moderate mental distress, according to the report from the University of British Columbia based on a survey of 1,206 teachers. More than two in five (41.3 per cent) said they are more likely to leave their profession.”
- Provinces should act fast to avert a teacher shortage now and after COVID-19 – Teacher burnout existed before the pandemic exacerbated the already dire situation. University of Regina education faculty Nathalie Reid and Jerome Cranston, writing for The Conversation, report that “the Canadian Federation of Teachers conducted a survey in the fall of more than 15,000 teachers and found that 70 per cent of them reported being ‘very stressed, struggling to cope and increasingly feeling unhappy.’” The authors “recommend the establishment of an expert national roundtable that listens to educators to develop a more comprehensive national framework. Such a framework should consider both the pre- and post-pandemic well-being of educators. We need to approach pandemic educational recovery with a national strategy, looking backward to the factors shaping how we got here, and forward in anticipation of what may come.”
- New Research Study to Investigate — and Address — Teacher Stress – The United States is understandably experiencing similar issues. The Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts have partnered with The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace in launching a study into the mental well-being of teachers. “Adapting [and] implementing the HWPP will, the researchers hope, provide a vital avenue for improving teachers’ work-life balance, reducing their level of burnout, and positively engaging them in their work.”
- “The Pandemic of Educator Stress: Actions, steps, and strategies to combat caregiver burnout this school year” – Writing in the September 2021 issue of the EdCan Network magazine, educator Danna Thomas offers eight strategies to address teacher on-the-job stress. She believes that, difficult as these times are, you need to know that “this is an opportunity for us to collectively make change by prioritizing our own well-being as a best practice for those we serve.” Her eight tips: 1) Prioritize yourself; 2) mute the toxic forces in your life; 3) Identify your purpose, 4) Create a self-care action plan; 5) Forgive yourself; 6) Take Breaks; 7) Offer yourself positive affirmations; and 8) check in with one another, find community.
- 25 Tips To Reduce Teacher Burnout – An article in TeachThought magazine offers more tips to address teacher burnout, and although some of them are repeated elsewhere, theirs include some novel ideas, for example: Smiling and laughing—“According to the Association for Psychological Science, smiling not only improves your mood but others’ as well;” Slow down. “Skip the coffee and just take a break. Sit and stare out the window for minutes at a time. Walk slowly to your next meeting. Breathe fresh air. Remember the beauty of taking your time.” Perhaps the most sobering of these: quit your job. “If your environment and classes just aren’t working out, then move on. There are lots of teaching jobs out there and this one might not be for you. Rethink your situation. Ask yourself: Is this worth it? Can I move forward here? If it feels temporary, then look elsewhere. Staying may be the source of your stress.”
- Happy Teachers – All is not lost. To get a boost, tune in some of the short “Happy Teacher” video testimonials from the “Happy Teachers Revolution.” They speak for themselves, but to us these teachers surely do seem happy! If you’re hooked by them, maybe you could spearhead an initiative to create a Happy Teachers school program in your school or board of education.
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