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Compassion fatigue study highlights teacher burnout

December 10, 2020 Kim Clement, ATA News Staff


Healthy students make for better learners, but only if they’re under the guidance of healthy adults. 

That’s one of the findings in a research study that confirmed what most teachers already know —significant emotional labour is required by education workers to be effective in their roles. 



“Educational workers need to be at their best — mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually — to be effective supports to children and youth,” said Astrid Kendrick, a University of Calgary researcher who is co-leading the two-year study. 

Co-led by the ATA, the Compassion Fatigue, Emotional Labour, and Educator Burnout Study is designed to address a research gap and find meaningful supports for teachers, school leaders, central office leaders and other workers. 

The findings indicate that a majority of participants experience a lack of energy (89 per cent) and exhaustion (81 per cent), followed by concentration problems (69 per cent), a lack of motivation to complete work-related tasks (66 per cent), sleep disorders (54 per cent), and reduced work performance (52 per cent). 

“This research is not only demonstrating the tremendous distress that educational workers are under, but is also seeking sustainable ways to keep them well and prevent compassion fatigue and burnout,” Kendrick said.

Nearly 3,000 respondents participated in the study’s first phase, which took place in June 2020.

“After reading through over 2,000 survey responses and 52 individual interviews, I was heartened by the lengths that educational workers will go to in order to educate and support children and youth,” Kendrick said.

“Unfortunately, they are sacrificing their own mental and emotional well-being to be strong and confident for their students and school communities, which is not sustainable.”

The second phase of data collection is underway and includes face-to-face interviews with educators across all staff groups resulting in approximately 40 interviews. The data collection will be completed once the second online survey is launched in January or February. 

“I want teachers to know that they’re not alone, and that even on their darkest days, when they sit and cry in their car in the school parking lot, their students, their administrators and their communities do care  about them,” Kendrick said.

“You are important. Your work is essential to the functioning of civil society. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and taking time to care for yourself is a necessary part of being able to care for your students.” ❚


Read More
The report is available on the ATA website: > Public Education > Education Research > Research Publications.


Compassion fatigue art contest open to teachers

Dr. Astrid Kendrick of the University of Calgary, principal researcher of the compassion fatigue study undertaken by the ATA and ASEBP, is holding an art contest that seeks to receive artistic representations of an empty emotional tank.

Open to any educational worker, including teachers, leaders, central office staff and education assistants, the contest runs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. The artwork can be in any medium, from paint on canvas to pencil sketch to pottery to sculpture. To submit your entry, please email

3 prizes are available
1st place $500
2nd place $300
3rd place $100 


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