In October 2020, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) released the CTF/FCE Canadian Teachers Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19) –Pandemic Research Study Mental Health Report. This document is an important baseline for understanding the impacts of teaching during a pandemic, and supports needed for teacher mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. The CTF/FCE Pandemic Study Phase One Survey was conducted June 1-18, 2020, and had over 15,000 completed teacher responses. From the results of this initial Survey, CTF/FCE reported on the mental health of students and teachers, and documented concerning mental health trends, as educators navigated emergency remote teaching in June 2020. This report revealed that the mental health of teachers was “severely endangered” by stressors such as: excessive workload, lack of clear directions and planning, increased screen time, and social isolation. The results also demonstrated that teachers were struggling to maintain work-life balance, and did not have the time to properly attend to their personal physical well-being.
This CTF/FCE Mental Health Check-in Report analyzes the follow-up “pulse” style CTF/FCE Survey on the mental health and well-being of teachers in the 2020-2021 school year, documenting the continued detrimental effects of the prolonged pandemic on teachers’ mental health and well-being. Based on the results, it is clear that there is a need for timely, wide-reaching, and continued support to alleviate the reported deteriorating mental health of Canadian public school educators. It is both a wake-up call, and a platform for advocacy.
The CTF/FCE Mental Health Check-in Survey was conducted in both official languages from October 16-25, 2020, with a total of 13,770 completed responses. The CTF/FCE Mental Health Check-in Survey comprised of ten closed-ended questions on mental health and well-being, and included baseline questions on teachers’ current mental state and stress levels, Likert scales on emotional and physical well-being, and comparative longitudinal questions. These questions, replicated from the June 2020 CTF/FCE Phase One study, offer longitudinal data on teachers’ baseline feelings of well-being, the state of their physical health, and their top concerns for their mental health and well-being. A comparative discussion of these longitudinal results appears in this report.
- Teachers want to be heard, and want their experiences documented: 17% (n= 2,292) of respondents requested a follow-up interview.
- Teachers are incredibly stressed, struggling to cope, and increasingly feeling unhappy: 46% are concerned about their own mental health and well-being.
- Increased workloads in a pandemic are detrimental to teachers’ physical health and well-being. Teachers are infrequently able to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Upholding basic levels of daily physical health are becoming progressively more difficult for teachers.
- There is a need for multiple layers of support, at the school, board, and Ministry level, to first listen and recognize the issues and to, secondly, make the required changes to lessen the effects of increased workload and job demands on teachers.
The following recommendations were made in the CTF/FCE Canadian Teachers Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Pandemic Research Study Mental Health Report:
- Offer immediate and ongoing emotional and mental health support to teachers, education workers, and students;
- Increase funding for teacher and student mental health services;
- Develop new mental health resources to address impacts of the pandemic, including trauma informed resources;
- Adjust workload expectations;
- Provide clear directions with proper communication from administration, boards, and Ministries.
Based on the Mental Health Check-in Survey results, and our analyses herein, we continue to advocate for the above, and add the following:
- Make mental health and well-being a priority: shift expectations around working extensively outside of contract hours;
- Increase visibility and ease of access for teacher mental health resources;
- Balance demands and resources in current teaching contexts. For example, while there is need in many contexts for additional student supervision and time spent on non-teaching tasks, prioritize time for teacher preparation and assessment by adding people power;
- Maintain the same health and safety guidelines that are utilized outside of schools, in schools and classrooms, e.g. masks and proper physical distancing;
- Increase funding for decreased classroom sizes that adhere to health and safety protocols;
- Create long-term policy and procedures to support teachers’ mental health and well-being at school, board, and ministry levels, especially for pandemic or crisis teaching environments;
- Listen to teachers’ experiences, and recognize the long-term, cumulative effects of being a front-line education worker in the care economy.