Monday, October 30, 2017

Teachers You Think You Were Stressed 3 Years Ago? We Have Scientific Evidence Your Career is Detrimental to Your Health.

By Jamy A. Brice-Hyde M.Ed. Director BATs Quality of Worklife Steering Committee

In October of  2014 a group of teachers were brought together by the news of tragic deaths of teachers they knew who were working in such stressful work environments it literally helped to drive them to take their own lives.  The group of teachers participated in a town hall with Randi Weingarten sharing the many stories of abusive work environments riddled with bullying, sexual discrimination, racism, ageism and profound stress incurred due to policymakers agenda.  Their profession had become the scapegoat for a generation of politicians and vulture capitalists attempting to raid a “500 billion dollar untapped market” known as the United States public schools.   The teaching profession was under siege in 2014. Today we learned not much has changed in 2017..

Out of that call in 2014 a partnership emerged between the Badass Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers creating the Quality of Worklife Committee. The Team created a survey and administered it in April of 2015. In May  the AFT/BAT Quality of worklife results were shared here.  The results captured the attention of millions and soon inspired  A Section of ESSA Under Title II SEC. 2103. LOCAL USES OF FUNDS: N) developing feedback mechanisms to improve school working conditions, including through periodically and publicly reporting results of educator support and working conditions feedback. Our team called upon the federal government to commission a scientific study on working conditions of in our public schools. After several meetings with the USDOE and in 2016  a Meeting with National Institute of Occupational  Safety and Health (NIOSH).  The BATs joint partnership with AFT  entered 2017 creating a ground breaking scientific survey and study of working conditions of public educators. We focused on those things that impact our health and well-being.  The Data has been collected and preliminary results are in!  American teachers are part of one of the most stressful professions in the country. Allow  me share a few highlights.

For starters 69% of our scientific random sample reported feeling stressed “always or/and often” compared to the NIOSH Quality of Worklife survey of all other careers about 30% report being stressed often/always. You read that right teachers are reporting over double the percentage of the national average for feeling stressed at work always or often. Let that sink in. There is enormous medical research that indicates that stress a precursor to numerous diseases as seen here

   Teachers are much more likely to be bullied, harassed and threatened at work than other workers. Our scientific sample reveal 1 in 4 teachers experience workplace bullying.       Educators and school staff reported being bullied, harassed or threatened at work almost 4 times a higher rate than workers in the general population. In 2017 who is bullying our public school teachers?         35 percent identified a principal, administrator or supervisor. 23 percent identified a co-worker 50% percent identified a student.  31 percent identified a student’s parent. Most teachers reported their district having a workplace harassment and bullying policy however few reported any district training.

A shocking statistic in the 2017 report was that 1 in 5 teachers  (21%)report their mental well being not being good 11 or more days in the past 30 days this is double the national average of 10 to 11% in other careers.  Wow! We must address this health crisis in our profession.

In our survey 61%report that their enthusiasm for their profession is not what it was when they began, over 40% report that the stress and disappointments are really not worth it anymore.  Can anyone say teacher shortage? All across the country communities are unable to fill positions with qualified educators for our next generation. They continue to assault our profession while corporate philanthropists seek to convince the public computers will replace teachers. Perhaps this shortage is intentional. Perhaps the systemic stress is designed to make our profession toxic to make way for profits for the big tech corporations on the back of our nation's children.  

Wilma DeSoto of Pennsylvania an original member of the BATs Quality of Worklife Team reflected, “Teachers are battle-worn with combat fatigue. We have been targeted by the neoliberal, corporate culture for more than 20 years and nobody seemed to care. In fact, many segments of our society such as the media, politicians, the education establishment, the business community, and even the general public seemed to engage in schadenfreude at our situation.While they have been dancing around the bonfire, an unfortunate crisis has been simmering and has now been brought to the boiling point. There is a teacher shortage in this country. Those who do stay in teaching wish to leave it, and there are very few people willing to replace them. Teaching has become fraught with physical and mental health issues primarily because teachers are not permitted to teach.They must toe the line drawn in chalk by people who have never taught a day in their lives, or who have never attended a public school. The pressure and the shame of being forced to do what one knows is wrong for children has taken its toll. Not only on teachers but also their students.The country will suffer as a result if there are no people willing to take on this profession in order to prepare our children to take their rightful places in life as member of society. Teachers and their students must have support from the society-at-large. They need the tools and the help to endure this anti-educational onslaught in the name of the almighty dollar. We can no longer afford to sweep this crisis under the rug. Our future survival depends upon it.”

The Survey revealed so much more and in the coming weeks and months our team and the AFT will be reporting on our in depth review of our findings. There is hope!  The American Federation of Teachers and the Badass teachers Association are committed to addressing issues of a healthy workplace as we push to impact policy makers to end the assault on public education and the teaching profession. Recently Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio proposed legislation calling for a study of stress and teachers in  Teacher Health and Wellness Act  

Keitha Bryson of Washington, an original member of the BATs Quality of Worklife Team believes, “ The silent epidemic exposed in the 2017 QWL survey will enable communities, school districts, and unions to build tool kits for assisting educators and students in crisis. The State of Washington has the highest youth suicide rate in the nation. Representative Tina Orwall has written existing youth suicide prevention legislation. Three goals: 1) immediate support for peers and students in crisis, 2) develop tool kits to train the community in supporting educators and students in crisis, 3) impact public policy.”

Kathy Beery of Virginia, an original member of the BATs Quality of Worklife Team stated,  "I wish  I could  say I was surprised  by the results  of the  survey, but I'm not.   It's a terrible predicament  for our profession  and we  must  continue to  work  for  change."

We must do more! We must all advocate for Healthy Workplaces in our public schools. A teacher's work environment is a student's learning environment ….and the children are watching.

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