The work of education professionals grows more complex and taxing by the year, and over the past three years especially, we have seen school staff at every level step up and adapt to extraordinary challenges. Our goal has been for Education Canada magazine to help our readers think critically about key education issues and meet some of those challenges feeling more informed, better equipped, and even inspired.
But we know that many educators are struggling. As with so many things, COVID exacerbated a problem that already existed: educators are burning out, and mental health problems are on the rise among both staff and students. In response, the EdCan Network has increasingly focused its attention on staff wellbeing, both in the magazine and through its Well at Work program.
In her article “Educators and Workplace Mental Health,” Akela Peoples of Mental Health Research Canada reports that at the height of the pandemic, 38 percent of teachers said they were suffering from burnout. That number has not changed much since. And when over a quarter of your staff have that much job stress, there’s a problem with the job itself. As Charlie Naylor, a Strategic Consultant with EdCan’s Well at Work Advisors program, writes on p. 14, “Teachers, principals, or school bus drivers should bear some responsibility for their own wellbeing, and for positively contributing to their professional workplace, but should not bear responsibility for fixing school systems that may be making them sick.”
That’s why, in this issue, we are looking at systemic approaches to staff and school wellness. We’ve learned some of the key roles and actions, from the provincial level right down to the individual, that are important in creating healthy workplaces. System change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about capacity building from within, and it takes a commitment from everyone in the system to change the system.
But it’s by no means impossible – just look at the work that’s been done in the two school districts profiled on pages 22 (Black Gold SD) and 26 (Medicine Hat PSD). And they have only just begun. Together, we can learn how to make our schools supportive, healthy places to learn and work – for everyone.
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First published in Education Canada, September 2023