Article authored by Chanel Worsteling, AISA Child Protection & Wellbeing Programme Manager
“It is draining. Exhausting. Time consuming. The work never stops.”
“It has challenged everything I enjoy about teaching.”
Stress and burnout are pervasive among teachers where job demands are known to make teaching one of the most stressful professions – in the US an estimated 46% of teachers report high daily stress, in Australia the figure is no better with over half of Australian teachers reporting they suffer from anxiety and nearly one-fifth are depressed (Stapelton, 2019), and in the UK that figures is nearly 75% (Ferguson, 2019). The situation for international school teachers mirrors these figures with a recent study by Cardiff University reporting that 56% of international school staff said they feel emotionally drained by their work half or most of the time (Wigford, 2018). And that was before COVID-19.
The quotes above are taken from a recent survey done with teachers in Australia, NZ, Singapore and the US (Cain, 2020). But I expect they are not dissimilar from what you may be hearing in your conversations with colleagues. Maybe you’ve even uttered them yourself?
Usually, the start of the new school year is one of excitement as we return to school after an extended break, fresh and with a new burst of energy. Not so this year. For many, the break was spent planning and preparing for a new school year – whether virtual, face to face or blended – consuming much needed rest time.
Which means that our leaders and educators are starting the year already feeling exhausted. Not only does this have negative implications for the wellbeing of our teachers, but clear evidence suggests that teacher wellbeing directly impacts classroom climate which has implications for students as well. Recent studies have confirmed that when teachers feel stressed, students notice and their stress levels increase accordingly (Oberle, 2020).
So, with teacher stress and burnout on the rise, what, if anything, can be done? The following areas have been found to impact teacher stress and burnout and thus offer areas to consider focusing interventions either personally or as a school:
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but there are things we can do personally, and collectively, to develop better coping strategies and skills that can help alleviate its negative impacts.
To help schools support their teacher’s wellbeing, AISA has established a partnership with NESLI, an Australian-based organization, to offer their Online Staff Wellbeing Toolkit to member schools. This self-paced program is designed to help your school community connect and build their resilience and wellbeing. For more information on how your school can take part in this unique program see our website for details or contact Chanel Worsteling.
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.