The survey of public school teachers was conducted by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), and found more than 80 per cent were experiencing “direct impacts” from teacher shortages in their districts.
“I wish I could say I was (surprised) but I think one of the things the survey results here have done is make a lot of teachers feel seen and heard,” BCTF president Clint Johnston told Global News.
“We’ve been hearing these things for quite some time, but for them to be able to read in a report that their voice and their experience is being put forward makes them feel good — except that that experience has some real negative pieces to it.”
Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported an increased workload and more stress.
The survey also found 62 per cent of teachers felt they couldn’t give students the supports they need, 41 per cent reported a loss of preparation time and almost 36 per cent said they weren’t taking personal or sick days when they needed them.
Forty-five per cent reported good or very good physical health and 37 per cent reported good or very good mental health. However, four in 10 said their physical or mental health had declined since last year.
“It means we have over half of the teachers in the province who don’t feel like their mental and physical health is good,” Johnston said.
“And in a caring profession where you share a lot of yourself, you need good mental and physical health.”
Johnston called the number of teachers who reported they couldn’t provide the necessary support to their students “shockingly high,” describing that feeling as a key driver of burnout among teachers.
While the union could not provide numbers to detail the acuity of the teacher shortage, Johnston said the fact that major urban districts like Chilliwack and Langley are posting ads seeking uncertified teachers highlights the severity of the problem.
In a statement, Education Minister Rachna Singh told Global News the province was adding about 250 new spaces in teacher education programs, and streamlining certification for internationally-trained educators.
In December, teachers approved a new collective agreement with pay increases of 3.24 per cent in year one, 6.75 per cent in year two and up to 3 per cent in year three.
Johnston said the province appears to have taken the first steps towards addressing the issue in recognizing that there is, in fact, a shortage of teachers.
But he said the government has yet to dedicate sufficient resources to tackling the issue. B.C., he said, needs to approach the teacher shortage the same way it has approached the shortage of doctors and nurses in the province.
“A really concrete strategy for both the short and the long term — recruitment and training of individuals to fill those shortages,” he said.
“That takes resources. You need more teachers in the system.”