Avoiding Burnout: A Vital Pursuit for Educators

Burnout is a pervasive problem affecting educators worldwide, leading to decreased job satisfaction, compromised well-being, and diminished classroom effectiveness. Addressing this issue is paramount to maintaining a high-quality education system. The demands of teaching can be overwhelming, leading to physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion. To maintain a high standard of education and foster a healthy learning environment, educators need to prioritize their well-being and avoid burnout.

The first step in avoiding burnout is recognizing its signs and symptoms. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Educators may feel emotionally drained, detached from their students, and experiencing a diminished sense of personal competence. Identifying these signs early on can help educators take proactive steps to prevent burnout. Understanding the root causes of burnout is essential for developing effective prevention strategies.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich


One of the primary causes of burnout is an imbalance between work and personal life. Educators often dedicate long hours to lesson planning, grading, and extracurricular activities, leaving little time for themselves and their families. Educators must be intentional about self-care and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to address this issue. Setting aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones can help alleviate the stress associated with teaching.

Educators should not hesitate to seek professional support when experiencing burnout symptoms. This may involve consulting with a counsellor or therapist specializing in educator well-being, and sharing challenges and concerns with a trusted mentor and/or professional can provide educators with valuable insights, coping strategies, and emotional support to navigate the demands of their profession effectively.

Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques can be valuable tools for preventing burnout. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, movement activities, nature explorations or yoga can help educators manage stress and stay grounded in the present moment. Integrating these techniques into daily routines can improve emotional resilience and well-being.

Creating/immersing in a supportive community within the school environment can also contribute to educator well-being. Participating in professional development opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, and ETFO local union events (socials) and peer support groups, can provide a network of like-minded individuals who understand the profession’s challenges.

Burnout is a significant concern in education, as it affects educators’ lives and the quality of education provided to students. Prioritizing your well-being and implementing strategies that enable work-life balance, will ensure that you have a fulfilling and sustainable career as an educator while providing the best possible learning experience for your students. Ultimately, the prevention of burnout is not only essential for us as individual educators but also for the betterment of the entire education system.

ETFO members who feel that they are experiencing mental health challenges should discuss their concerns with their family doctor. Mental health support may be available to ETFO members through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), accessed via their district school board.
Additional support may be found through Starling Minds, which offers a variety of digital programs free of charge for ETFO members. Read this PDF about Starling Minds and learn how to register.

Positioning students as co-conspirators (and the fall of WE)

Since I began my teaching career six years ago, my practices of student engagement in activism and advocacy have evolved and shifted based on the community of learners I am working with. At the same time, my attitude towards this work has shifted consistently and drastically. The most notable change? My feelings toward social enterprises whose work in schools may appear charitable, but are steeped in controversy and insincerity.

In my first year of teaching, a student in my Grade Three class gave me a “Rafiki Bracelet” sold to them by the WE Charity. It was later that school year that I was sitting in a school-wide assembly, watching a promotional video for the same organization in which a group of women in Kenya were profiled as they beaded the bracelets themselves. Students were being sold the notion that they themselves would be contributing to the livelihood of these women and their communities by simply purchasing a bracelet. Colleagues and I asked ourselves: Why can’t we see the long-term impacts of these temporary solutions to a deeply systemic problem?

Many who criticize WE’s business model, through which students became a vehicle for sales and profit, point out how students were roped into the fantasy of “saving” impoverished communities with their efforts. What started with a Rafiki bracelet not only became thousands of dollars in spending on WE’s “voluntourism” programs, but also the excitement of post-graduation employment at WE without realizing that the organization overworked and underpaid its employees to a severe extreme.

As educators we can ask why students would have fallen victim to a model like WE’s, but what we should do is critically examine the ways that celebrity, fame, and ego were at the centre of WE’s initiatives, particularly WE Day, in order to convince students to join their cause. WE Day harnessed an unbelievable amount of power in numbers, but it fostered an almost cult-like manipulation and exploitation of our students who would have needed a trusted adult to help them understand more appropriate avenues for activism and advocacy work in school.

It’s been one year since WE announced it would be ceasing its Canadian programs after having been embroiled in scandal. My hope is that we use this turn of events to deepen our consciousness around what it means to be an activist in school and work hard to de-centre the ego from the work our students do to help others. Instead of portraying the student as the saviour, how might we portray the student as a co-conspirator? How might we foster a sense of humility in classroom activism? In what ways does our teaching perpetuate narratives in which non-western countries are “poor” instead of examining the systems of power that cause disparity?

These questions simply scratch the surface of the impact that WE’s programs, values, and corruption have had in our schools and on our students, here in Canada and across the world. As we reflect, we must also continue to name and unpack these problems in order to push past the fault in our practice and move forward in a good way. 

For an in-depth look into the WE scandal, listen to “The White Saviors” series by Canadaland: https://www.canadaland.com/shows/the-white-saviors/ 


About those indoor shoes

Winter’s coming and as I share this on the eve of December and our possible first snow day of the 20-21 school year, the timing is intentional.

Recently, I had a moment of clarity while greeting students at the door of my classroom. It started out simply enough as they returned after a snowy midday recess. Amid our usual pleasantries it happened – a simple and often overlooked aspect of privilege kicked me in the thoughts as I welcomed students back inside. Although, there was nothing out of the ordinary on this particular day, all I could think about, in that moment, was indoor shoes.

You know, that 2nd pair of shoes students are expected to bring from home, that stay at school, so they can change in and out of for recess and indoor activities. The ones that every student is told they are supposed to have. The same shoes that can be found classrooms away from their owners’ personal effects after being dribbled down the hallways soccer style by budding Christine Sinclairs and Alphonso Davies’. Those indoor shoes. 

Although an extra pair of shoes might be a small issue for many of us, I wonder whether asking students to have a dedicated pair of shoes to change into for inside school exagerates the socio-economic divisions that are obvious in many of our communities. After nearly 2000 days in the classroom, I am only seeing the ability to bring a second pair of shoes as an indicator of privilege, and that got me thinking about equity.

So, I’ll ask. Do you think that requiring/expecting students to have a 2nd pair of indoor shoes is unfair to those who are unable? Have schools become too demanding to expect this considering that many families are living pay check to paycheck? How are educators working to support their learners without isolating or alienating them by their supportive actions? Don’t even get me started about winter boots.

Clearly, there is a fine line to tread and I am wondering what’s changed, what needs to change in the way we were are doing things, and what else have I/you/we been missing? 

What’s changed? 

Nothing and it is not going to either as long as our socio-political and economic structures remain the same, we will always have students coming to school from places of unearned disadvantages being asked to act like they do not.

When we know that students are in need, how do we as a school community genuinely support them equitably? Is there a way that we can help while being discrete in our actions? One way might be by intentionally looking the other way while still making a note of things like a single pair of shoes, no boots, or a lack of weather protective garments rather than confronting their lack of them outright. How do we provide help without awkward and uncomfortable moments for a child?

What needs to change?

There will always be students with needs. Even though we might have enough, and it looks like they have enough. It is easy to be fooled into inaction by the belief that their enough is actually enough. When students are sent to school with a lunch to eat at school, it’s not obvious at first look whether it is the only meal they are having each day. It starts at relationships. 

Knowing the learner is the key here. Without it, we risk allowing students to fall through the cracks. With recent restrictions to work due to the pandemic, it is becoming clearer that families are living in more precarious circumstances. That fancy car that drops students off at the kiss and ride each morning may about to be repossessed. The top dollar running shoes and brand name everything to wear seems incongruous to the jam sandwich or mac and cheese everyday that those same students are bringing for lunch. I am always hopeful that the child really likes the same lunch everyday, but am also watchful whether it is an indicator that something else is going on outside of school.

What else have I/you/we been missing?

Even though I have used indoor shoes as the soul of this post, they are not the sole indicators of unidentified needs or inequities. At-risk students are everywhere in our hallways. I am trying to pay attention to their actions, words, and body language. I never want to look back on this time and think that our students slipped through the cracks without our support. Conversations with other colleagues also help to fill in the blanks if something doesn’t seem right. It has become second nature to ask a student how their day is going. It is also important to include all of the community resources available to schools too. 

If we pay attention to the little signs, we have an excellent chance to close some of the gaps for our students. It might be as simple as connecting families with access to community supports they may not have known about. This may be a simple as ensuring that there is English language assistance for them when it comes to access. For others, it might mean ensuring there is something extra to eat available for any who are experiencing food security issues. For others it might mean an invitation to help out in class during a particularly cold day at recess. 

Whatever the circumstances, we can walk alongside students as they learn to fill the shoes that are waiting for them in the future. 

Thanks to Tim Bradford and Nicolette Bryan @ACPS for their wisdom and candour while discussing this topic. 

Further Reading:

Equity: The Missing Piece of Most Back-to-School Conversations

Holiday Break Assumptions

December is stressful for so many reasons.  Seasonal concerts and plays, crafts and the general hustle and bustle around this time of year.  While teachers attempt to make things fun and engaging for the last few weeks before the holiday, there are a few things to consider about assumptions that as educators we might make about our students.

Not every child is looking forward to the holidays.

As working adults we look forward to the break from our daily occupations at this time of year.  For us it means a chance to regroup and reconnect.  However, for some students it may mean a lack of routine and structure which can provoke anxiety.  The reality is that some students may find school the safest place in their lives.  The two weeks off of school at the end of the December will inevitably happen for everyone however, not every kid is looking forward to it.  So it may be best not to focus on the “Countdown to Break.”

Children living in poverty.

For those children living in families who celebrate the season with any kind of gift giving, this can be a time of stress and anxiety for parents and invariably children.  According to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, “Parents of low-income families will often put themselves last in order to shield their kids from poverty and the parents’ health and well-being suffers for it.”  Some parents may even skip meals or prescription medication in order to have enough money to buy gifts.  Whether the children are aware of their family’s financial situation or not, they will witness wealthier classmates getting more at this time of year and it can be difficult for those children.   While this is the time of year that many schools engage in a food drive, teachers need to remember that some students may not be able to donate and in fact, there may be students in your class or school whose family accesses the food bank.  It doesn’t mean that would need to stop these charitable acts.  As educators we just need to be aware of the assumptions that we make about our students when we engage in the activities.

Those “fun” activities aren’t always “fun” for everyone.

This time of year gets busy in a school.  There are often more announcements, events and things for sale or collection.  Students who already struggle in school find this time of year difficult because of the multitude of interruptions to regular routines.  When possible, keep things as simple as possible for your students.  I have always found that keeping as much routine as possible in my classroom at this time of year provided much needed comfort and predictability.




Drawing The Line

Each year, in Canada, approxScreenshot 2018-09-30 at 9.18.11 PMimately 460,000 women are sexually assaulted, although only a fraction of them report the assault to the police (1). In a day and age where this statistic holds true, it’s hard to imagine that our government is wanting to go back to a time where consent and gender identity aren’t being discussed in classrooms as a part of the Health Curriculum. Simply ignoring the very real issues that our students face in 2018 doesn’t make them go away, nor does it help to develop a society that is action-based and ready to implement change.

Earlier this year I was really excited to hear about ETFO’s and White Ribbon’s resource – Drawing The Line. Now I might be slightly biased as my brother is a contributing author but I was thrilled to see a resource that not only provided data-driven information for educators but also included a comprehensive guide for age-appropriate lessons for students in grades 1 to 8. I love that the guide addresses bystanders and offers students ways in which to respond to to sexual violence. Not only do the lessons connect to the Health and Physical Education Curriculum but expectations also in Language and the Arts are included in many of the lessons. This guide is truly a proactive approach to teaching students about healthy relationships and is one that every educator should read and implement in their classrooms. I know that in the past, ETFO was offering sessions on this resource and I hope that they continue.

Screenshot 2018-09-30 at 9.18.44 PM

With hotlines or tiplines being made available, it’s sad to say that we are in such a time where educators are somewhat in fear of teaching what we know to be essential for our students’ safety and healthy development. We need to be having these conversations because unless we do, nothing will change and perpetrators will feel empowered to continue. As you may already know, at the beginning of September, ETFO filed a legal injunction to pause the rollback of the 2015 Health curriculum. The union believes the government’s directive creates unsafe and unhealthy learning and working environments. In the meantime, how are you working to unpack these issues with students? They’re in the news and on the same social media platforms that students are interacting with. How will the work we do today impact the statistics in the future? In the next year, 5 or 10? If you haven’t already, please check out this resource as well as the other resources that ETFO has to offer.

1. Holly, Johnson, “Limits of a Criminal Justice Response” (University of Ottawa, 2012), https://books.openedition.org/uop/592?lang=en

Why Ontario Teachers Need to be Political

Class sizes have concequences

According to The Washington Post’s Valarie Strauss “Teachers are often expected to remain politically neutral in class, not letting their students know which candidate they support or where they stand on controversial issues” (Strauss, 2016).

Parents may anticipate that teachers could “indoctrinate” students by expressing their own views in classrooms (Strauss, 2016) and as a result, so many teachers are tentative to discuss their political views.

Given that “teachers teach who they are” (Susan Drake, n.d.), it’s hard for teachers to be neutral in their passions for education and especially for the inclusion and equity of students.

I state that the act of teaching is a political act as classrooms hold future citizens and what teachers say and do matters.

Teachers teach children to become creative, collaborative communicators, critical thinkers, problem solvers, and global citizens. Teachers help their students become good citizens or as Dewey stated the “organization of the school, as it affects the mind of both teacher and pupil, [is a] growth and extension of the democratic principle in life beyond school doors” (Dewey, 1903).

The act of advocating for democracy and human rights in schools is a political action – so should teachers be political?  Former state and national U.S. Teachers of the Year wrote in an open letter “there are times when a moral imperative outweighs traditional social norms. There are times when silence is the voice of complicity” (cited in Strauss, 2016).

As teachers, we regularly espouse ideas of supporting human rights, through equity and inclusion. In the act of teaching, we are the political messengers of these ideas. Teachers are role models for students as we set the example through what we say and do. Our students watch our every move in our words and our actions. Teachers’ words and actions matter.

In Ontario politics, teachers’ voices matter and our representation and advocacy through our unions matter. Through the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, teachers represent almost 200,000 voices in Ontario. Teachers’ votes matter!

Results of Ontario political outcomes directly impact education funding for schools, staff, and students. In 1994, the election of Mike Harris cut billions of dollars from education (Martin, 2009). By the time I became a teacher in 2000, classrooms were void of resources – teachers ended up filling this gap directly with money out of their pockets. Teacher salaries are also directly regulated by provincial governments. Politics impacts teachers’ net income.

Teachers have built their advocacy for public education through their boards of education and their agency through their unions.

Should teachers talk about which political party they will vote for on this 2018 Provincial Election Day? Probably not, but teachers can just be who they are … advocates for public education, advocates for human rights, and advocates for the inclusion and equity of all students.

Above all, teachers can be advocates for democracy. The most impactful act a citizen can do to support democracy is to vote.

Teach who you are, be who you are. Vote.

Yours Collaboratively

Deb Weston


Dewey, J., (1903). Democracy in education. The elementary school teacher4(4), 193-204.

Drake, S., (n.d.) Professor (PhD), Department of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education,  Brock University, https://brocku.ca/education/faculty-and-staff/dr-susan-drake/

Martin, R., (October 20, 2009). What happened to Canada’s education advantage? The Toronto Star, Downloaded from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/2009/10/20/what_happened_to_canadas_education_advantage.html

Strauss, V., (October 14, 2016). Teachers are expected to remain politically neutral. These Teachers of the Year say they can’t., The Washington Post, Downloaded from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/10/14/teachers-are-expected-to-remain-politically-neutral-these-teachers-of-the-year-say-they-cant/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4ab93d6a23ed

Gender Equity in 2018



The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlines what gender equity should look like … but do women really have gender equity in 2018?

In education and workplace participation, gender equity has made some strides.

  • in 2015, women are almost as likely to have a high school (82.5% women vs. 89.3% men) or university degree (83.1% women vs. 89.9% men)
  • in 2015, 77.5% of women were employed compared to 85.3% of men, up from 21.6% in 1950 and 65.2% in 1983
  • in 2015, women are more likely to be away from work (30.0% women vs. 23.9% men) and more likely to be away for a full week of work (38.4% women vs. 24.8% men)
  • in 2015, women are more likely to work part-time (18.9% women vs. 5.5% men)
  • in 2015, women are more likely to do volunteer work (67.2% women vs. 53.0% men)
  • In 1976 – men had higher levels of employment based on the marital status
    • 1976 men – 78.0 % employed single/never married, 92.7% employed married/common-law, and 82.3% employed separated/divorced/widowed
  • In 2015 – women employment rates of women no longer differ based on marital status
    • 1976 women – 79.4% employed single/never married, 44.6% employed married/common-law, and 59.2% employed separated/divorced/widowed

Nevertheless, challenges remain:

Too few women are advancing into leadership roles.

  • Women make up just 21.6% of Financial Post 500* board member (2016)

Women are under-represented in politics in 2015.

  • 26% of those elected to the 42nd Parliament are women
  • women made up 28% of municipal councillors and only 18% of mayors

Women continue to be responsible for the majority of care giving and household unpaid work.

  • women vs. men still spend (25.7 hrs/week) more time caring for their children (in 2010 women 50.1 vs. 24.4 hours/week on unpaid child care)
  • women vs. men are twice as likely to spend more than 10 hours per week unpaid work caring for seniors (49% women vs. 25% men)
  • women vs. men spend 5.5 hours more on housework (13.8 hrs women vs. 8.3 hrs men per week)

Women in the workforce tend to earn less than men.

  • women earn $0.876 for every dollar men earn, largely as a result of inequity between women and men within occupations (2015)

Women continue to experience high rates of gender-based violence.

  • Women have a 20% higher risk of violent victimization than men (2015)
  • Women account for 87% of victims of sexual offences and 76% of victims of criminal harassment (2015)

Some groups are at particular risk for gender-based violence.

  • 10% of aboriginal women were about three times as likely to report being a victim of spousal violence as 3% of non-Aboriginal women (2015)


How does this impact ETFO members?


As 82% of elementary teachers identify as women, women’s issues directly impact elementary teachers.


  • With too few women (21.6%) in leadership roles, women’s voices are not heard.
  • With under-representation of women in politics, women’s needs and equality are not addressed.
  • With more women spending their time, away from work, on unpaid work (caring for children and seniors, housework, volunteer work) , this unpaid work is not valued.
  • With women taking more time off work than men, this means women pay for higher sick leaves and long term leaves (on a personal note, when my children were young, I used 15 days of vacation days, before teaching, to take care of sick children and had no vacation that year). Again, women’s time at work is not valued as much as men’s time at work – if it was, more men would be taking time off to deal with family responsibilities.

Further, our ETFO colleagues are 20% more likely to be victims of violence than men and 87% of victims of  sexual violence. Our aboriginal ETFO colleagues are 3 times more likely to be victims of spousal violence.

Fortunately, female and male ETFO members are paid equitably based on experience and qualifications.

How do we change this?

  • Advocate for women leaders and leadership
  • Advocate for men to take on more caregiving and household responsibilities
  • Advocate for better, more inexpensive and supplemented childcare
  • Start small by changing attitudes and behaviours of women’s paid and unpaid work
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and subtle sexism encountered every day
  • Challenge sexism and discrimination that allow gender inequality to exist
  • Go for leadership roles and run for office

How can you change this on a personal level?

  • Expect men to take as much responsibility as women to care for children and seniors
  • Expect men to take parental leave so women to go back to work
  • Expect men to take as much responsibility as women for household chores
  • Hire house cleaners to clean your house, even if they clean part of the house
  • Advocate for better, more affordable/supplemented childcare, where the childcare workers are fairly paid


In Canada, gender equity is exists but it’s not completely equal. Let’s hope women can make similar strides in improving stats in leadership, unpaid work, and gender violence that have happened in education and employment. Let’s hope in the next 10 years, the stats noted above will look more equal, more equitable, and less biased towards women.

Happy International Womens’ Day 2018

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Interesting Resources:










*The Financial Post’s ranking of Canada’s largest companies by revenue.

all data from Stats Canada




Weston, DPA, 2015. Downloaded from http://hdl.handle.net/10464/6191

Teaching About the Genderbread Person

I’m taking the new ETFO AQ … Teaching LGBTQ Students Additional Qualification Course. I’m learning a great deal about stigma, discrimination, and privilege. PS I’m a LGBTQ2S Ally.



The first day of the course, we discussed the Genderbread Person which really help me understand the diversity in  people, and especially in LGBTQ2S communities. This concept was developed by Sam Killermann. I’ve included several of Sam’s resources below.

Aspects of the Genderbread Person (my understand of the Genderbread Person concept):

Gender Identity deals with how a person thinks about their gender.

Gender Expression deals with how a person presents with regards to gender.

Biological Sex is how male, intersexed, or female a person is born.

Sexual Orientation deals with who a personal is sexually attracted to but no necessarily who they fall in love with. This means that a person may be sexually attracted to another person and want to sleep with them but may or may not be romantically attracted to them.

Romantic Orientation deals with the opposite where a person may be romantically attracted to another person but may or may not to be sexually attracted to them and want to sleep with them.

All of the above occur on a separate continuum. This means Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Biological Sex, Sexual Orientation, and Romantic Orientation are all on a separate continuum. For example a person could identify as male, express themselves as male, be biologically female, have a preference for males both securely and romantically – or in other words, a girl who looks and presents as a boy but still likes to have sex and love boys (based on a real life case).

Remember about 1 in 10 or 10% of our students likely identify as LGBTQ2S so it’s important to understand about the equity issues around the identities. Knowing about LGBTQ2S is not just about celebrating a day of pink, it’s about embracing the issues everyday!

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Check out these resources below

Genderbread Personb v3

One Huge Prickly Reason Why Anti-LBTQ Folks Don’t Change Their Views

Let’s Talk About Bathrooms

5 Reasons Why So Many People Believe Feminism Hates Men and Why They’re Not True

Dear White, Straight, Cisgender, Man People: You Are Privileged

Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions

30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege

Solution for the “Confusing” Gender Neutral Toilet Sign Issue

Video: Understanding the complexity of gender

Video: From Boxes to “-Ness” A Journey Exploring Gender

Video: Social Justice is for Everyone

NEW AQ COURSE! Teaching LGBTQ Students Additional Qualification Course

NEW ETFO AQ COURSE! Teaching LGBTQ Students Additional Qualification Course


In the spring 2018 session, ETFO-AQ is launching a new AQ course called Teaching LGBTQ Students. Candidates will critically explore a wide range of pedagogies, resources and supports related to teaching LGBTQ students. Strategies explored will foster a sense of partnership and collaboration with families, school/board personnel and communities. Ongoing critical examination of personal biases, privilege and the importance of allyship will constitute a significant element of this course as candidates engage in various learning experiences and reflect on new learning.

Online registration opens February 5, 2018 and closes 12 noon on March 29, 2018.

For more information, including important dates, visit the ETFO website at etfo-aq.ca. If you have any questions, please contact ETFO-AQ at aqcourses@etfo.org or 1-888-838-3836 extension 3803.

Precarious Absences – The impact of teacher intervention truancy systems


I write this blog in response to watching a highly capable and talented, long-term occasional teacher worrying about taking time off to go to a medical appointment. She actually considered cancelling her appointment as she worried about taking too much time off school because she thought it would impact her chance for a full-time teacher contract. Supply teachers and long term occasional teachers are feeling the pressure of not taking time off to meet their self care and medical needs. And this is the place where all teachers are at.

In the past few years, school boards have started using teacher intervention truancy systems. These systems track how many days teachers take off for reasons such as being sick, attending medical/dental appointments, or taking time off to care for family.

When I started teaching 18 years ago, I had 20 sick days which could be “banked” and then “cashed out” at the end of my career. As a teacher, I did not want to take time off if I did not have to … as it is a lot of work to make day plans to be off. But, as a single parent at the time, if my children were ill, I had to take time off. Also note that I got sick too. As a teacher, I am on average exposed to many children … up to 100 a day (I counted).

Then, I few years ago, teachers’ 20 sick days were reduced to 11 sick days, plus family responsibility days. This meant that teachers could no longer “bank” sick days and received a reduced salary after the 11th sick day.

Children (i.e. viral conduits) are very good at transferring their illnesses to their parents and teachers. Over my 18 years of teaching I’ve contracted a plethora of infections including many bacterial and viral infections, skin infections, eye infections, Whopping Cough (twice), Norwalk virus (twice), many weeks of bronchitis, several bouts of flu including H1N1, and lots of colds. With my doctor’s insistence, in the spring of 2017, I ended up taking 12 days off from school due to my ongoing bronchitis.

Once my health was marginal enough for me to return to work, I did coughing away, sucking on cough drops, drinking tea with honey, and carrying a tissue box around to blow my nose. Hey, it was report card time – I needed to get back!

Recently, some Ontario school boards started tracking teachers’ absences. The “teacher intervention truancy systems” notes when teachers take more than 3 sick days off in a 3 month period. At this point, the teachers are sent letters documenting that they were being put on a program to track their absences … like they were not really sick and just needed to take a day off. Let me say again that it is a lot of work to planning for being away from the classroom.

In the “teacher intervention truancy systems”, teachers have to document their absences with notes to prove they were either really sick or really attending medical/dental appointments. Note that I have had to pay $20 out of my own pocket to document my sick days, for each appointment!. In addition, to make things more interesting, teachers in some schools were told not to take half days off as schools were finding it difficult to find supply teachers who would work only half days. This tells me boards have to hire more supply teachers!

Based on my observation, I believe that this “teacher intervention truancy system” is casting a wide net to catch some people who may be abusing sick days. But based on my own experience and that of my colleagues, I believe that, since teachers are subjected to so many children’s illnesses, the relative number of sick days are too few. Teachers need more sick days!

Based on my own health experience, I believe the “teacher intervention truancy systems” have impeded by ability to meet my own self care and medical needs  – it has resulted in me having to choose between being sick or going to medical appointments. I believe that if I had taken the time I needed to rest, I would not have been off sick for so long, away from my students.

I wonder how new teachers are doing with the management of their self care, given their own family responsibilities and the care of their own health.

I find it ironic that school boards talk a lot about supporting employee health but their walk is not supporting employee health.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Downloadable Adaptable Emergency Lesson Plans

If you are even too sick to go to school and you have no day plans yet, I have attached a 5-day Emergency Lesson Plan that can be adapted to your classroom/grade level. Download it, change it, make it your own!

Generic Emergency Teacher Lesson Plans (1)

5 Day Plan Schedule Emerngency Lesson Plan.xls (1)

Any Read Aloud Book Graphic Organize

1 Rounding100s Game

Note: The term “teacher intervention truancy systems” is my own acronym.