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Stressed out

October 6, 2020 Jen Janzen (she/her), ATA News Staff

Survey reveals high levels of stress, fatigue and anxiety among teachers

June-level stress in the first week of September. That’s one of the findings from the ATA’s second pulse survey, a five-minute feedback tool that seeks to understand what Alberta teachers and school leaders are facing as they navigate classroom life during the pandemic.

The latest survey, conducted from Sept. 10 to 14, revealed that 95 per cent of respondents reported stress, 94 per cent reported fatigue and 81 per cent reported anxiety.

“As a school leader I am beyond exhausted. I see my [teacher] colleagues are stressed, anxious and already close to burning out,” states one survey respondent.

Half of respondents stated that they “never, rarely and occasionally” observe physical distancing taking place in classrooms, hallways and school grounds. And just 18 per cent believe that current efforts to cohort students will prevent COVID-19 infections, as they are observing students intermixing with others outside their cohort at lunchtime, on buses and at bus stops, at recess or breaks, and before and after school.

“As hard as we try, we cannot keep them two metres apart,” reported a survey respondent.

The reports of stress, fatigue and anxiety are concerning, but students and teachers are doing the best job that they can,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

“In most cases, students are working really hard with teachers to meet the guidelines,” he said. “Everyone wants schools to stay open, but we need them to be safe and supported.”

The survey of more than 1,600 teachers and school leaders also measured COVID-19 prevention, infection and control:

  • Student handwashing is rare, while disinfectant use is more common. Many teachers are concerned about adequate staffing for sanitizing and who is responsible for disinfecting classroom surfaces.
  • Air flow anxiety with winter coming: 45 per cent of survey respondents are trying to create more ventilation for their students, either by opening windows, teaching outdoors or other solutions. But some classrooms don’t have windows, some windows are locked shut, and outdoor classes will become difficult to accommodate when winter comes.
  • Seventy-one per cent of teachers and school leaders believe that it will be a challenge to have parents or guardians pick up a student in a timely manner from school when their child/youth shows symptoms or has a presumptive case of COVID-19.
  • Sixty-six per cent of respondents identified the challenge of cleaning and disinfecting all the items the presumptive COVID-19 student touched or used while isolated as soon as that student is picked up. Fifty per cent also noted the additional challenge of items being removed from the classroom and stored in a sealed container for a minimum of 72 hours.

Administered regularly throughout fall 2020, the pulse surveys are following a group of teachers and school leaders. A second, randomly selected group of teachers and leaders will also be invited to participate each week as a comparison population.

Results from each survey are posted online within 48 hours. For more pulse survey results, visit the ATA website ❚


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