Managing educator wellbeing contributes to stress
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Expecting educators to manage own wellbeing is compounding stress: Curtin study

Expecting educators to manage own wellbeing is compounding stress: Curtin study

by Freya Lucas

February 28, 2024

The challenges and problems being faced by overworked educators are being compounded by expectations placed on them to manage their own wellbeing, while the impact of working conditions and broader policies on teacher welfare are often ignored, new research from Curtin University has found. 


While the research examined discussions mostly about the school based context, the findings are highly relevant to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, where the wellbeing of professionals is at the forefront of discussions about staff attraction and retention. 


To reach their findings the researchers used responses from popular online forum Reddit, where many educators share their experiences and frustrations with their peers in a secure, informal space.


Co-author Dr Saul Karnovsky from Curtin’s School of Education said through their analysis the researchers coined the phrase ‘cruel wellbeing’ to describe programs that overlooked the difficult work conditions faced by teachers and asked them to be solely responsible for their wellbeing through positive thinking strategies.


“We found Reddit was a forum through which teachers could express their concerns about issues like overwork and lack of attention from leaders and policymakers,” Dr Karnovsky said.


“The discussions were critical of the idea of putting the responsibility for wellbeing solely on individual teachers while failing to address external factors contributing to their stress, which could make things worse for teachers by increasing frustration and workload.”


Policymakers and leaders, he continued, risked being seen as out of touch if they didn’t consider the real challenges educators face in their working conditions.


“The absence of voices from school leaders and policymakers on Reddit forums can create a divide between teachers and leaders,” Dr Karnovsky said.


“There is increasing concern worldwide for the wellbeing of teachers and despite teachers facing challenges due to education policies and working conditions, the main discussions around wellbeing focus on individual strategies for teachers to manage their own wellbeing,” he added.


Researchers said it is important for leaders and policy makers to be aware of such discussions, given that the wellbeing programs they endorse may be an attempt to address complex issues with limited resources.


“Wellbeing is not just an individual responsibility; it’s a systemic issue that requires collective action and acknowledgment of the real challenges teachers face,” Dr Karnovsky said.


The full research paper, ‘How teacher wellbeing can be cruel: Refusing discourses of wellbeing in an online Reddit forumcan be found online here.

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