She’d been in the profession for over a year by then. It had been her dream to teach her passion for the language arts since her first Shakespeare class in the ninth grade. She’d devoted her heart and mind to the years of her training, set on inspiring young minds to pursue their own passions and dpk persevere through the challenges of growing up. Until one day she realized that she was over it all – that her passion had been gradually dulled into something else. And though her awareness of this was filled with fond memories of what was supposed to be, up to then, her life’s calling, she now didn’t know how to grapple with how she was feeling.
Stress and burnout syndrome are one of the most frequent negative experiences in the helping professions, and staff within the education sector – including superintendents, principals, teachers, and other teaching and non-teaching staff – are not immune. And while many school districts have invested in stress reduction programs and policies to help staff cope with daily systemic pressures beyond their control, these positive innovations remain a patchwork of success. The influence of working conditions on staff well-being – and the ramifications this can have on student outcomes – is often overlooked, leading to one-off interventions focused on individual cases rather than the systemic approaches that transform entire education systems for the better. It’s a common case of tackling the symptoms rather than the disease.
Evidence demonstrates that healthy workplaces that promote social and mental health are productive, attract and retain top talent, and get the best out of highly engaged employees – which means better outcomes for the organization’s bottom line, whether that be profits, social impact, or student outcomes. But to get there, we’ll need to challenge the persistent mindsets and assumptions that are holding us back – whether that be clarifying the importance of education professionals or boosting awareness that the science of “happiness” is integral to staff engagement and not merely a fluffy concept. One thing’s for sure: a healthy, motivated education workforce means healthy, motivated students – and that’s an investment we can’t compromise on.
That’s why we’re launching a special, year-long focus on workplace well-being. Starting next issue, you’ll see a new regular column on the topic, and Workplace Well-being will be our theme in December. It’s time to make serious investments in the well-being of our K-12 education staff.
The EdCan Network is leading national work mobilizing evidence on workplace well-being in K-12 education. For more information, visit www.edcan.ca/wellatwork
First published in Education Canada, June 2019