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PTSD On The Rise Among Ontario Classroom Teachers

Ontario teachers are under increasing stress as they struggle to cope with complex educational demands and growing behavioural problems among children. As a result, the average number of sick days teachers take off increased by 29 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to a 2017 report by Ontario’s Auditor-General.

Elementary teachers are very concerned about the rise in violent incidents in elementary school classrooms. A 2017 survey by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario found 70 per cent of Kindergarten to Grade 6 teachers had been involved in a violent classroom incident or had witnessed a violent incident involving another teacher. Seventy-nine per cent of elementary school teachers believe that the number of violent classroom incidents has increased.

Half of elementary teachers on long-term disability leave in Ottawa-Carleton suffer from ‘mental nervous disorders’, according to the president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers Federation. Ontario-wide long-term disability leave trends for elementary teachers are very similar.

What Is Causing PTSD Amongst Teachers?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects “some people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event”, according to the PTSD Association of Canada. After the event, they experience a variety of symptoms, including abnormal fear, flashbacks of the event, or avoidance of situations that might trigger memories of the event.” They may feel overwhelmed by simple tasks and be frightened of performing regular daily activities.

The Causes Of PTSD In Teachers

. They include student behaviour, administrative actions, and ever-increasing classroom responsibilities.

Students’ misbehaviour includes:

  • students screaming at or hitting each other
  • destroying classroom furniture and equipment
  • physically attacking the teacher

Many teachers must return to the classroom immediately after being involved in a violent incident in a previous class, with little time to process the incident or recover if they are hurt. There are often no other teachers available who could cover the class for the affected teacher.

Lack of administrative support: Some teachers are also affected by what they see as a lack of effective discipline of violent students. In Ontario, the Ministry of Education promotes a ‘progressive discipline’ policy. Discipline starts with written work with a learning component, then proceeds through these stages:

  • withdrawal of classroom privileges
  • withdrawal from the classroom
  • detention
  • restitution of damages
  • conflict resolution
  • mediation
  • service to the school community
  • counselling
  • suspension or expulsion

The violent student usually stays in class while going through the first stages of progressive discipline. This means many teachers must be wary that the student may repeat the violent outburst. This constant strain causes additional stress for the teacher on top of watching or being the victim of the previous violence.

Sometimes, administrators believe that the violence is the fault of an inexperienced teacher and blame the teacher for the violence. Others may bully teachers in private or in public.

ncreasing Classroom Responsibilities

Teachers are also responsible for implementing new educational initiatives launched by school boards and the Ministry of Education in addition to teaching content, providing extra help to students having difficulties learning the content, and maintaining classroom discipline. The added workload is likely placing additional stress on already-stressed teachers.

Are You A Teacher Coping With Stress and PTSD?

Many teachers carry on teaching, coping with their stress as best and for as long as they can. Others seek to take long-term disability leave to recover from the stress and trauma they have suffered. Some are successful in doing so, while others may be denied leave on this basis.

If you are a teacher who is suffering emotionally and physically because of classroom trauma, you should seek legal assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer. They will determine what rights you have under your collective agreement, protect your rights, and fight to get the maximum amount of benefits that you are entitled to under the law.

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