Teacher Workload Unsustainable
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) is renewing their call on the provincial government to use the $85.4 million in federal education funding to hire more staff, increase access to teacher and student mental health resources, provide sick time coverage for substitutes, and deliver much higher levels of direct public health support to all schools.
“The majority of provinces have used this federal money to ensure that students and teachers are being given the necessary resources and supports,” said MTS president James Bedford. “The inaction of the Manitoba government has led to a situation where students’ learning conditions and teachers’ working conditions are deteriorating at an alarming rate.”
Bedford says The Society has repeatedly asked the province for a plan for the federal funds, but has not received a clear response.
“Their vague and non-committal responses are, quite frankly, unacceptable, and their silence is negligent,” he said. “Teachers are looking to the province to invest in education, and once again their cry is falling on deaf ears.”
Bedford said that since Winnipeg Metro has moved to the orange level, The Society has been flooded with calls from teachers on the brink of burnout.
“Some teachers are moving between two and three physical classrooms, to accommodate the two-metres of physical distance under the orange level,” said Bedford. “Because blended-learning is in effect, they’re also teaching online at the same time.”
He said there simply aren’t enough substitutes to respond to the system needs, and the current way of coping can result in safety issues (teachers moving between cohorts) and the intensification of already crushing teacher workloads.
“This is unreasonable and unsustainable,” he said. “Our membership poll, wrapped up two weeks ago, and nine in 10 Manitoba teachers were reporting high levels of stress this school year. Teachers have reached a breaking point.”
Bedford also pointed to the recent Canadian Teachers’ Federation survey, where Manitoba teachers are reporting that stress, anxiety, and depression; workload; and mental and emotional exhaustion are their top three mental health concerns, as they manage the challenges of teaching amid COVID-19. Eighty-six per cent of Manitoba respondents reported being concerned about the ability to maintain their own health.
“Teachers need some relief. Not in a week. Not in a month. They need it now,” said Bedford. “Without additional teachers, without access to substitutes, without addressing the mental health impacts of a pandemic, the public education system is in danger of collapsing. Teachers can no longer carry the load without help from government.”