OTTAWA, ON – Newly released cross Canada interviews with teachers and education workers reveal that their experiences working and living through the COVID-19 pandemic are intimately connected to their declining mental health and sense of well-being.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) pandemic research report, “But at what cost?” Teacher mental health during COVID-19, captures first-hand accounts and an in-depth understanding of living through a pandemic as a teacher during the 2020-2021 school year.
The collected narratives from the interviews reveal how and why various aspects of their professional lives contributed to a decline in mental health.
“What we see across the country is an exhausting profession coupled with public education systems teetering like houses of cards as the virus and the scourge of declining mental health have collided head-on with chronic underfunding, understaffing, and increasing class sizes,” said CTF/FCE President Sam Hammond. “As one teacher put it, for them and their students, it was ‘a year of stretching the elastic as far as it would go, until it was almost broken.”
This qualitive research builds on the CTF/FCE’s June and October 2020 pan-Canadian pandemic research studies to learn more about the connections between workload, changes to practice and pedagogy, digital technologies, and mental health and well-being.
- 97% of participants stated they experienced increased physical, mental, and emotional workload, and job demands during the 2020-2021 school year.
- The deteriorating mental health of Canadian public-school teachers has been caused in part by increased workload, uncertainty, and inadequate support from school, boards/districts, and Ministry leadership.
- Teachers are being pulled in multiple directions and are, due to both the mounting demands and growing digital connectivity, increasingly always “on”.
- Teachers are collectively experiencing an omnipresent sense of emergency, uncertainty and crisis, which has reached a point of unsustainability.
- Education workers are putting their students’ needs and concerns above their own, with 81% of interview participants [citing] student success as their top concern.
Over 2,300 teachers from the October 2020 Teacher Mental Health Check-in Survey volunteered to be contacted for a follow-up interview, and 110 teachers were recruited from the CTF/FCE’s 18 Member and Associate Organizations. A total of 32 open-ended, semi-structured interviews were conducted in both official languages from February 20 to April 4, 2021.