Teachers….overworked and underpaid! That cliché is not only cringe worthy, it actually makes the blood boil! Although accurate, its overuse detracts from an authentic assessment of the plight of teachers today; speaking and listening to that phrase desensitises us to Australian teachers’ true predicament. It diminishes the complexity and the seriousness of significant teaching workplace stressors, such as increasing workload, reduced time for actual teaching and learning, mounting parental expectations, and dealing with student behaviour issues as well as student mental health concerns.
Sources and levels of stress for teachers across the globe have been well documented, but let’s look at some findings from Australian based research:
- Full time teachers in Australia work an average of 53-55 hours per week; 25% work more than 55 hours in a typical week ¹
- 90% of teachers indicate that workload negatively impacts their teaching ¹
- 80% of teachers have experienced bullying and harassment in the last year ²
- 60% of teachers reported working with unacceptable stress levels ¹
- More than 50% of Australian teachers suffer from anxiety and nearly one-fifth are depressed ³
- 1 in 3 Principals was physically attacked and 45% threatened in 2018 ⁴
- Research suggests between 13.5 – 50% of beginning teachers leave the profession in their first 5 years of teaching⁵
It doesn’t paint a pretty picture…..and yet the expectation is that Australian teachers should provide exceptional academic opportunities and quality pastoral care for their students. We know that the likelihood of students thriving in their studies and lives in general, is significantly increased when nurtured by healthy, well teachers within a flourishing school community and yet we often witness utter contradiction to that wisdom in Australian schools today. In the face of those worrisome statistics however, it is essential for us to remember and believe that individually and collectively, we CAN make a difference to Australian teachers’ wellbeing.
A strong determinant of teacher wellbeing is an individual teacher’s self-care regime. Positive physical and mental health habits are, of course, major factors in that regime and these aspects are precisely where Champion Life can make a difference. Our role models, the challenges they issue and the reward tips they deliver can be just as pertinent and powerful for teachers. Of course, wellbeing is influenced by other elements such as relationships, purposefulness and accomplishment ⁶ all of which point to the importance of the community surrounding each individual.
Whilst there is a multitude of organisations and programs targeting various aspects of wellbeing these days, (see Teacher Wellbeing Initiatives), “the most effective approach … is one that involves the whole learning community – including leaders, educators, children, young people and their families, and the wider local community.” ⁷ Advocacy for teacher wellbeing that emanates from within and engages all sectors of a school community is more likely to experience successes.
So, Teacher/Student/Principal/Family Member/Community Member, as we all have a vested interest in championing teacher wellbeing, here’s a few ideas to consider, share or implement:
- Attend to your own self-care – so you’re better able to support others
- Remember teachers are people first, teachers second
- Recognise teachers’ individual strengths Seek out, engage in authentic relationships with teachers
- Practice gratitude for their contributions
- Participate in school life, activities, events
- Share your own ideas and strengths
- Support a school/teacher wellbeing strategy and implementation
Below, are some quality initiatives designed specifically for teachers and school communities that are available free of charge.
BRiTE - https://www.brite.edu.au/ - a program to help pre-service and practising teachers to build awareness of skills and practices that help facilitate resilience in the world of teaching.
Be You - https://beyou.edu.au/ - aims to equip teachers, principals and school communities with the skills and wellbeing status to enable them to support young Australians achieve optimal mental health. Check out their Educators Handbook, Tools & Guides and Programs Directory in particular.
ReachOut Schools - https://schools.au.reachout.com/articles/tips-for-teacher-wellbeing - as part of the online mental health service ReachOut, this site provides information and resources for teachers and schools.
QUT Teacher Podclass - https://www.qut.edu.au/education/engage/teacher-podclass - insights from educational researchers aiming to support and inspire teachers
³ Stapleton, Peta. Teachers are more depressed and anxious than the average Australian [online]. Newsmonth, Vol. 39, No. 4, Jun 2019: 12.
⁷ Hoare E. Mentally Healthy Communities in Early Learning and School Settings: an Evidence Check rapid review brokered by the Sax Institute (www.saxinstitute.org.au) for Be You, 2019