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COVID-19, Caregiving and Careers of Alberta Teachers and School Leaders: A Qualitative Study

Simon Fraser University

Julia Smith, Stevie Thompson

Topic areas

COVID-19Women

Study Design:

"The research questions noted above were explored through a mixed methods approach including analysis of academic and grey literature, focus group discussions and semi structured interviews with school leaders and trustees. Focus group participants were recruited voluntarily through advertisements on the Women in Leadership Summit website and in the registration information, and purposefully by targeted e-mails. Interviewees were recruited purposefully by e-mail from the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)."

Study Sample:

In March 2021, "five focus groups were held with 29 female teachers and school leaders in total. 10 individual semi-structured interviews with school leaders and superintendents were conducted in May 2021."

Research Questions:

"The project was guided by the following research questions: (1) What has been the lived experience of Alberta teachers and school leaders who also have caregiving responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic?; (2) How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the employment and/or career aspirations of teachers and school leaders who also have caregiving responsibilities?; and (3) What current or potential supports, either formal or informal, do Alberta teachers and school leaders identify as being beneficial to help in balancing career and caregiving responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic?"

Findings:

"The context and challenges of COVID-19, particularly in terms of irreconcilable work and care responsibilities, directly impacted educators’ mental and physical health, with almost all reporting feelings of exhaustion, stress and anxiety. They felt responsible for maintaining a sense of calm and responding to the heightened emotional needs of others. While such labour was appreciated, it also incurred time and well-being costs for educators. Professional demands impacted educators’ home life, resulting in less time and energy to meet increasing care burdens. Many educators rose to the challenges posed by COVID-19, seeking out online professional development and education opportunities, and expressing a desire for greater leadership opportunities. Educators often felt that the double burden of care they assumed at school and at home was taken for granted and not supported by decision makers. Educators felt supported when schools and divisions offered flexibility to work from home and meet care responsibilities. They appreciated division-level support to postpone the new curriculum pilot and the offer of free professional development days, which allowed time for self-care. They found peer and community support, even when virtual, encouraging, despite the trying circumstances."

Find more information on the study homepage

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