The professional reality of elementary school teachers



A Québec study conducted in 2010 with 2401 teachers from different grade levels revealed that 19% of participants rated their mental health as average to poor, compared with 8.1% of the general labour force.

About 60% of participants in the same study reported experiencing symptoms of burnout at least once per month, with 20% experiencing them at least once per week. According to different sources, between 15% and 20% of teachers leave teaching within their first five years of practice.

Between 15% and 20% of teachers leave teaching within their first five years of practice.

What difficulties do teachers face that might explain these numbers, how is this situation likely to influence student persistence and success, and what support is available for teachers? This research sought to address these questions in depth, particularly in the case of elementary school teachers. Fifteen contextual factors of teaching were examined in relation to their influence on teachers' well-being and commitment to their work. Of these, providing support for students with special needs strongly emerged as being the most problematic, regardless of the teacher's level of experience.

An acute lack of specialized resources for these students, combined with their massive integration into regular classrooms, appeared to cause feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless among teachers in many aspects of their practice. Some feared the negative consequences the situation would have on the academic success of all students. Teachers had the impression that they were expected to "perform miracles" in the classroom for students in need of services and to "react like specialists" in different situations without receiving proper training, and that they spent their time "putting out fires" rather than teaching. Teachers in the study expressed the wish that the allocation of financial, material and human resources for special-needs students and the delicate issue of their integration into regular classes be brought to the agenda of decision-makers and education administrators.

Main researcher

Anne Brault-Labbé, Université de Sherbrooke

Summary

Research report

Appendices F; G

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: October 2013