The AWF is concerned about the psychological health of teachers

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According to the AWF, 43 % of long-term absences among teachers are due to psychological causes.

The effort more and more required of teachers and the management of the school network according to an approach based on the performance have a high cost both on the mental health of teachers on the education offered to students and, ultimately, on the finances of the whole network.


Gathered at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, Wednesday, some 300 delegates of the autonomous Federation of education (FAE) is focused on the means to implement to better protect their members and support them.


The AWF, which represents about 34,000 teachers, points out that 38, 000 days of the calendar have been taken for absences due to problems of a psychological nature in 2016-2017, by teachers who are off work for more than two years in the 10 school boards that it represents. The data from the FEF indicate that 43 % of these absences are due to psychological causes such as burnout, distress, or depression.


Tip of the iceberg?


It is permissible to suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg, since the province of Québec has 72 school boards.


“Only for the year 2016-2017, the 10 school boards in which we are present have paid, wage replacement, $ 12.8 million to replace teachers who were absent on long-term disability of more than two years,” says the president of the FAE, Sylvain Mallette.


The delegates present at the meeting have been heard in the beginning of the day, two researchers who have analysed the nature of the work environment and the causes of the psychological distress that results in absences of long duration.


The work of the sociologist Marie-France Maranda and professor Simon Livewells are state of the culture of ” too ” and ” lack “, or too many pupils in classes, too many students with various difficulties and too many requirements individualized while at the same time, teachers lack of resources, lack of recognition and lack of political support.


“I was the father to my students “


“It has never been easy, but here it reaches a level of additional difficulty, because the parents who are there lack the financial resources and we lack of resources in schools. Parents who do not even have to eat for themselves or barely, I saw them and I didn’t see it in the beginning of their career, ” says Brigitte Welcome, who taught for 31 years at the kindergarten of the school Alphonse-Pesant, Montreal.

See teachers crying […] because we said: how will I achieve to fill the gap that my students need?
Brigitte Welcome

“Seeing teachers cry […] because we said : how will I achieve to fill the gap that my students need ? There are tears and there are people who will tell us in a sweet manner that they are temporarily on medications that help you sleep better “, she adds, noting that there is little evidence to satisfy both the expectations of the teacher, parents, children and personal life.


Of the phenomena in the growth add to these terms and conditions, including the fact that teachers feel more and more called to engage in a relationship of social assistance that goes well beyond the work of a teacher, and this, in order to bridge gaps in education, but also social and organizational.


“When I started my career, I was literally the father for 12 of my 16 students in the field of adaptation, because they are other, dad was gone or he was dead “, said for his part Jean-Philippe Viau, who teaches grade 6 at école Sainte-Catherine-Labouré of the City of LaSalle.


During this time, according to the researchers, the management philosophy revolves around a positive narrative intended to promote enthusiasm and resilience in the face of adversity, and who interprets the situations of overload as a personal problem of the teacher unable to manage his working time and his disillusionment as a lack of vocation for teaching.


New vocabularies


The two researchers emphasize that in addition to this management philosophy, strong pressure of performance, where the student and the parent are now customers and where the performance of the teacher is judged according to the success of its students.


Elise Bourbeau, who teaches mathematics at the high school Father-Marquette in Montreal, explains that this philosophy of management is accompanied by a host of new expressions that are multiplied in the course of his 12 years in the profession : “The” edit notes “, it didn’t exist when I started. It applies to a student in difficulty, which is integrated in our classes. Since it may not reach the levels required by the course, we must change our assessment to the lower to try and make this succeed. “


It is entry into the network at the time of the implementation of the reform of the educational renewal noted that the reform is, in fact, a continuous process. “In all the years, they realize that, oops, there’s something that doesn’t work. And there, they are sending new words, new concepts, mini-reforms, constantly, every year… and the message changes with each new minister. “


The teachers note that all of this pressure also has an impact on the quality of teaching and the relationship with the students.

Students are not stupid: they see, they feel, they understand that the school’s lack of resources.
Elizabeth Bourbeau

“We are role models for their children, argues Ms. Bourbeau. Students are not stupid : they see, they feel, they understand that the school’s lack of resources. “

“They can see that their teacher, on a certain day, is disengaged and it can affect them because they are, what they want, what are teachers who have energy, who are there to help, to find solutions to their problems,” she adds.


Insecurity growing


The researchers Maranda and Wells also note that the profession is subject to an instability growing, while the number of temporary employees than permanent since a few years, which testifies to a very widespread use of the contingency which also has an impact very clear on the students.

When the teacher’s hand, it made a break and, most of the time, you can have one, two, three, 12 or 15 alternates different time that they find someone to replace the person on disability.
Jean-Philippe Viau

“When the teacher’s hand, it made a break and, most of the time, you can have one, two, three, 12 or 15 alternates different time that they find someone to replace the person on disability,” explains Jean-Philippe Viau. It creates instability, the cohort becomes disorganized and there is more connection with the person who will stay until the end of the year. “


One might think that the teachers who are doing substitute teaching would like to escape this insecurity, but it is nothing, ” says Élise Bourbeau. “Take the teacher who is leaving on sick leave because his task is too heavy — too many groups, too many students, too many problems, too many different subjects to teach. The teacher who comes to replace it does not want to take this contract. He wants to just replace it temporarily because he does not want to engage in it ; there is no one, even the alternates, who wants to embark on tasks like this. “


Sense of duty


The researchers emphasize that the employer, in his speech enthusiastic, heavily on the sense of duty of teachers. The fact that several of them regularly pay out-of-pocket supplies that will help them to teach is a well-known and often reported.


Andre (fictitious name) has taught for five years at a customer severely handicapped in a special school. He admits that the resources are largely insufficient and that the situation does not tend to improve with time.

Each year, we lose two or three teachers because of a load is too heavy or because of disease, physical and psychological.
Andre (fictitious name)

“Last year, we lost three teachers… every year, we lose two or three teachers because of a load is too heavy or because of disease, physical and psychological,” he explains.


To the point where, despite its arrival pretty recent, it is already among those with the most seniority in this environment where the already onerous requirements of the teaching are multiplied by the complexity of the customer.


He does not hide that he had thought to leave him : “I thought about it last year. I was made in the month of may and it was really very wrong. “


However, it is the caring that has allowed him to hold the fort : “I have spoken to colleagues. […] I made them promise that if they ever saw a change in my relationship with my students, tell me and I would have gone to the doctor.


“If it were not for the team, if this was not the students that I see every day, I would be gone. But I didn’t want to. I felt responsible, ” he says, confirming at the same time that he is suffering like many others from this virus incurable : the vocation.

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