Long before the new school year started, teachers, school and district leaders and Ministry staff were trying to plan for a safe and productive return to school. Or perhaps a partial return to school, supplemented with online learning. Or perhaps some other model. From wrestling with the logistics of keeping students physically distanced from each other in buildings designed and staffed for large groups, to seeking kid-friendly online learning approaches, it’s been an uncertain path toward a moving target. Parents and students, of course, also have new worries and challenges.
So everyone in the education system is feeling an additional layer of stress. We are also finding new ways to connect with and support each other, experiencing satisfaction when we find effective ways to meet new challenges and taking pride in the successes that have been achieved so far.
This issue of Education Canada is focused on you and your well-being at work, regardless of your role in the education system. Before we’d even heard of COVID-19, staff stress and burn-out was already a significant problem in education. Staff well-being is an issue that all school boards should be concerned about – and now more than ever.
The authors in this issue offer thoughtful, evidence-based analysis of the stress educators experience and how this impacts the whole school community. Rohan Thompson and André Grace address the burden of stress that BIPOC and LGBTQ2+ staff and students endure due to systemic and explicit racism and homo/transphobia. Darcy Santor and Chris Bruckert report on the worrying increase in violence and harassment teachers are experiencing. Melanie Janzen and Anne Phelan examine how over-emphasizing self-help as the “cure” for teachers’ stress can actually increase anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, while overlooking both the systemic factors that create relentless stress and the inherent nature of the job for teachers who care.
There is plenty of good news, too. Our authors also share initiatives, programs and policies that have strengthened educator well-being in their districts, and new ways of thinking about and addressing stress among teachers and students alike.
I hope you find validation, useful information, and inspiring ideas in this issue to support you and help you stay well – both as we find our way through the pandemic, and in the future.
First published in Education Canada, September 2020
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