COVID-19: Four of five BC teachers report declining mental health

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UBC study surveyed 1,206 teachers across the province

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With a grueling school year over, four in five British Columbia teachers who volunteered for a survey say their mental health has declined during the pandemic, according to a UBC study.

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“The school disruptions linked to the pandemic and the need to adapt to new regulations and directives are unprecedented,” the study said.

A primary school teacher with 10 years of experience said he had never felt so “discouraged, misunderstood and deflated, yet exhausted”.

“Our goal was to understand how teachers in British Columbia were doing during the pandemic and the potential impact the pandemic may have had on their mental health, but also on their teaching experiences,” said the author. Principal Anne Gadermann, Assistant Professor at the Population School at UBC. and public health.

The study, conducted in collaboration with the BC Teachers Federation and the BC Ministry of Education, interviewed 1,206 teachers across the province in February, examining their teaching experience and well-being after 11 months. of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Other findings included:

• 70 percent of teachers said they had fewer opportunities to form and maintain an emotional bond with students;

• 93 percent reported fewer relationships with their colleagues;

• 43 percent said students’ emotional needs were not being met;

• 67 percent said they had more work;

• and 40 percent said they were more likely to leave the profession than they were before the pandemic.

This response rate is similar to previous research using this approach, but it is important to note that respondents themselves chose to participate in the survey and their responses may not be representative of all teachers in Colombia. British, Gadermann said.

Gregory Jung, who teaches at Brentwood Elementary in Burnaby, listed the unique challenges posed by COVID-19.

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“I mean not only teaching during a pandemic, but also dealing with a whole bunch of other factors,” said Jung, who responded to the survey. He named distance learning, dealing with families who think the virus is fake news and other families who thought it was dangerous to go back to school, and making sure protocols mask and hand washing were followed.

“Combine all of that with not being able to do normal things like going to see your friend in another class,” Jung said. “It started to take its toll.

“I feel blessed to have had the group I had, but I know some teachers in our school felt the brunt of it all. It took a team effort this year, teachers and families came out, and I’m proud of our community.

Teacher stress was already a concern before the pandemic, the report notes, with teachers facing time constraints, classroom management challenges and addressing diverse learner needs.

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“This may be exacerbated by additional burdens from the pandemic,” the report said. “Previous research suggests that many teachers leave the profession due to (a) burnout and / or (b) lack of confidence in their teaching abilities.

“These findings take on new meaning in the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially creating a perfect storm of high levels of exhaustion and lack of confidence in one’s teaching abilities in this unprecedented context. “

Teachers tended to report feeling more support from their colleagues, principals, school administrators and the union; and less support from school boards and ministry in Victoria.

“There were definitely a lot of negatives about the very difficult year that the teachers faced,” said Gadermann. “But on a positive note, we also found some things that can potentially be addressed in the future with more sources of support.

“Teachers who reported feeling well supported were also more likely to report better mental health and fewer thoughts of leaving the profession.

“We can see these supports as protective factors for the mental health and well-being of teachers. Focusing on supporting teachers could be a crucial first step that stakeholders need to focus on when working to support teacher well-being.

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