It is heartening to see that mental health and well-being are now being reprioritised in our school system today for both students and teachers.
The many adaptations we have had to make in the past two years in our work, family and social lives have brought us to a point where many are mentally exhausted.
The recent measures and initiatives announced by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and implemented by school leaders show that leaders appreciate the situation on the ground and are willing to address it.
However, the devil resides in the execution. How do you make meaningful and lasting changes?
When I read the article, “Singapore schools working to ease teachers’ workload amid signs of burnout during Covid-19 pandemic” (Dec 12), the first sentence confirmed my reservations about how initiatives are being executed: “Every Sunday afternoon, teachers at West View Primary School receive a message in their work inbox from their principal, Mr Eddie Foo.”
The principal’s motivation behind the Sunday afternoon e-mails that help to manage the teachers’ workload, and his initiative to give his teachers the autonomy to manage their time, are commendable.
However, sending e-mails during weekends should not be the norm. We can schedule e-mails, and it is feasible to do so during office hours.
I have also seen family members and friends, among them teachers, receiving WhatsApp messages from colleagues and superiors after office hours, including on weekends.
While one might argue that the individual has the autonomy to ignore e-mails and messages and choose to reply the next working day, does anyone honestly believe that all subordinates have a choice?
And there will be those who feel anxiety – they will be burdened to respond immediately.
Also, many initiatives end up creating more work for teachers.
This is symptomatic of our society today.
It does not happen just in schools, but in other workplaces too. I have had non-critical, routine e-mails sent to me at odd times of the week, some even from the same people who advocate work-life balance and mental well-being.
We – bosses included – need not have our work lives set up like this.
Something has to give, and it should not be our mental well-being.