Results of the largest online survey of teachers ever conducted by the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) reveal that more than nine out of ten teachers cited class composition as a source of work-related stress. More than 8,000 teachers participated in the CTF voluntary survey which set out to inquire about their work-life balance as well as potential sources of stress, both inside and outside the classroom.
"In general, teachers feel they do not have adequate supports and services to address the broad range of special needs in their classrooms," says CTF President Dianne Woloschuk. The CTF findings come a week after the release of the People for Education report stating that student-teacher ratios in special education are on the rise while schools have unequal access to supports.
Inside the classroom, 95 per cent of teacher respondents experienced stress because it is harder to find time to meet the individual educational needs of students. Other findings related to stressors include the following:
- three out of four educators cited interruptions to teaching by students;
- 71 per cent listed student absenteeism; and,
- over six out of 10 reported challenges in dealing with students' personal or health-related issues.
Lack of time to plan assessments with colleagues was reported as a stressor by 86 per cent of teachers surveyed, while 85 per cent indicated marking and grading as a source of stress. Other stressors include increased administrative-related work and outdated technology.
"Ninety-three per cent of teachers who responded said they felt torn between their teaching and home responsibilities," says CTF President Dianne Woloschuk. "This does not come as a surprise in light of several teacher organizations workload studies conducted since 2000 showing the average teacher works approximately 53 hours per week."
"Of those teachers who are also parents, 90 per cent of women and 81 per cent of men reported they did not have enough time to spend with their own children. As professionals, teachers' continued commitment to their students' success is coming at the expense of their personal lives," she adds.
Woloschuk says the CTF agrees with the concerns expressed by survey respondents who have identified five major areas for recommended change among 14 examined areas in the survey. These include reducing class sizes, improving support for students with special educational needs, increasing time for planning and preparation, reducing non-teaching demands such as administration and paperwork, and increasing and improving classroom resources such as books and computers. Such changes would help to improve teachers' conditions of professional practice which are closely tied to students' learning environments.
"Like other Canadians, teachers are aware of the importance of balancing their professional practice with their personal lives. However, the factors that affect teachers' working conditions have a very direct effect on our students' learning conditions," concludes Woloschuk.
The Survey on the Quest for Teacher Work-Life Balance was conducted online by the CTF and provincial/territorial teacher organizations across Canada between February 24 and March 26, 2014. Some 8,096 Canadian teachers responded.
The CTF is an alliance of nearly 200,000 elementary and secondary educators from 17 organizations from coast to coast to coast.