Being a teacher is an unsustainable career choice. More and more we are finding that this profession is so demanding that we can’t expect people to remain in the classroom for five years, let alone the entirety of their career.
This is real. This is our reality.
When you expect people to give so much of themselves, it’s natural to also expect there to be consequences. I am a teacher. My friends are teachers. Most people I know in any realm of education have spent time in the classroom. So many of us have lost ourselves, or are losing ourselves, as we teach each day. Pieces of ourselves fall away. Pieces of who we are begin to fade. And for most of us, the rewards of loving these children cannot outweigh the pile of our pieces that begin to add up.
We need to care for our teachers differently.
Employee wellness has been the focus of much research over the last decade. A recent study focusing on happiness in employees, published in The Journal of Labour Economics, directly links professional success and productivity to levels of happiness. But the opposite was also found to be true; lower reports of happiness are systematically associated with lower productivity. Increased levels of stress and excessive pressures at work lead to low engagement and high absenteeism.
Parallel to this, workload directly impacts workplace culture. A study by Cornerstone found that work overload was a key factor in decreased professional satisfaction, citing 68 percent of employees surveyed felt that the hours required to complete their work on a daily basis outnumbered the hours in their workday.
Sound familiar, teachers?
Over the last five years, the corporate world has found that employee wellness programs are not luxuries that should only be offered to the most prestigious companies. Two-thirds of organizations around the country are discovering the benefits of creating environments in which wellness is part of the work culture. Employees, now more than ever, are seeking companies that work to meet their needs, not just companies to work for.
Addressing wellness needs of employees is vital in creating work environments that yield a strong and positive culture. Workplace stress and anxiety, and stress have a devastating impact on workplace culture and productivity.
Schools have many priorities to balance when it comes to providing an education for our students. Unfortunately, teacher wellness is not likely to be at the top of that list. And while schools may be dedicated to developing and retaining their teachers, tending to the health and wellness of our teachers is not likely to be a focus area.
The research around employee health, and what causes some of the most incredible damages to our workplaces, are easily compared to the challenges and experiences of our teachers. Recent studies found that teachers work more than 50 hours a week, rising above 60 hours for primary teachers. The Education Staff Health Survey found that 91 per cent of school teachers have experienced damaging stress levels in the past two years, while 74 per cent suffered anxiety and 47 per cent had depression. Ninety-one per cent blamed excessive workload as the major cause.
We cannot continue to ignore the health and wellness that our teachers desperately need. The sacrifices we make chip away at who we are and how fulfilled we are capable of being. This is not an exaggeration. Our teachers need support.
When teachers feel better, they teach better.
Tending to the hearts and lives of our teachers needs to be a priority. The Whole Teacher Movement is based on the belief that teachers, school leaders, and communities rethink what it means to build healthy schools. Without healthy teachers, our schools and our educators will remain painfully incomplete. The whole story needs to be told, and the whole teacher needs to addressed.
Will you join us?