Bringing a Fruit Roll-Up to a Knife Fight

But At What Cost?

Major themes coming out of this study affecting teacher mental health can be categorized into three major areas, Workload, Pivot and Professional Orbits.


Teachers carried and still carry enormous additional loads:

  • psychological load due to added layers of expectations which take up more headspace and
  • emotional load to manage not only lack of control but also student anxiety. This emotional load led some to compassion fatigue (like me).


We all can relate to what was essentially the worst game of twister ever. These pivots caused imbalance (that translates to more emotional and psychological load folks). The pivots caused a great many feelings, namely:

  • feelings of frustration and even grief because of the changes in our teaching practice,
  • feelings of not doing enough because of curriculum expectations and the difficulty of meeting them in a remote learning scenario
  • scrambling, anxiety and guilt caused by emergency pedagogy
  • anxiety, stress and exhaustion caused by changing teaching modalities, and
  • feelings of loneliness or loss of connection because of the shifts in connections with colleagues or kinds of connection with colleagues, students and parents

Professional orbits

Big Recommendations

The take-aways are quite simple:

  • Listen to teachers (much of what’s happened has been dictated by non-educators with little understanding of what happens in a classroom day to day and advice/feedback from teachers has largely been ignored in many cases)
  • Change the excessive workload/ give more work time


Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe: Hope Forward

  • Belonging – our home team, psychological safety net and foundation of trust
  • Perspective – involves aligning head and heart, operating from our values, and making what matters most matter most
  • Acceptance – deciphering what is in our control and our ability to persist, pivot and punt
  • Hope – being hope-filled and living in hope with others. This protects our morale.
  • Humour – humour allows for release and reprieve. It’s a biological tool to help us reach flow instead of stewing
Yerkes-Dodson Law modelled as a u-shaped curve

Hanley-Dafoe’s final words of advice were to remind us that we can do hard things and believing this can get us through them.

And to close, Dr. Hanley Dafoe has recently composed this article just for teachers:

Take care of yourselves everyone, we are in the home stretch and you CAN do hard things.

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