EDUCATIONAL WORKER – Community & Unique Work

Educational workers, including teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, and system leaders provide unique emotional labor to the children and youth in their communities.

“I believe that I working for the higher good of society and the children. I put my energy into making school the best possible experience and share in the joy of learning with my students. I appreciate and join in on humour from the kids and staff.”

Survey Participant open-ended response

What is crisis and trauma work in educational settings?

“What is crisis and trauma work in educational settings?” was developed through the HEARTcare mobilization research project that received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC). Animated by the Windmill Group.
Compassion Satisfaction

Compassion Satisfaction is the joy and intrinsic rewards that educational workers feel from their daily work.

Compassion Stress and Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Stress and Compassion Fatigue may result from providing crisis and trauma work to children, youth, or colleagues in learning environments. Compassion stress is also known as secondary traumatic stress and compassion fatigue is also referred to as secondary traumatic stress disorder.

Emotional Labour 

Emotional labour in educational settings is provided by educational workers to create safe, caring, and joyous learning environments for children and youth. It is marked by providing deep or surface acting according to organizational feeling rules. In education, the organizational feeling rules appear to be that educational workers should be calm, energetic, cheerful, and joyous.

From the Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Emotional Labour Study, Phase 1 Report
From the Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Emotional Labour Study, Phase 1 Report
What is the compassion continuum?

Educational workers can build their compassion satisfaction by:

  • Building empathetic relationships with the children and youth in their schools. 
  • Through experience: the more time educators spend working with children and youth, the more internal and external resources they build which makes them more effective with providing emotional labour.
  • Having a positive worldview and feeling that they are appreciated and valued by the wider community and local governments. 
  • Educational workers wish to have a positive, long-term impact on the students with whom they work.
  • Acknowledgement of their HEARTwork: Educational workers are drawn to the field they love for working with students or their love and expertise in a subject area. 
  • They are energized by caring for the educational needs of children and youth and passing their knowledge to the next generation.

Occupational Hazards for Educational Caregivers

Crisis Work

Working with or supervising children and youth during a crisis such as a fire, flood, or violent event.

Trauma Work

Counseling or listening to a child, youth, or colleague describing a traumatic event, such as domestic violence, suicide ideation, or family loss.


The symptoms of physical and emotional fatigue, lack of appreciation, and depersonalization built over time resulting because of workplace conditions.

These occupational hazards can be intensified by:

Toxic Workplace

Lack of collegial relations and opportunities for growth and career advancement

Workplace harassment or bullying by community members

Inattentiveness to working conditions

Lack of Training

lack of ongoing evidence-based training about the signs and symptoms of compassion stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout.

Over-reliance on self-initiative to learn about these occupational hazards.

Lack of a plan to reduce symptoms of burnout or compassion fatigue.


Loss of passion or interest in work

Teaching or work assignment outside of personal areas of strength or interest

Feeling unable or helpless to meet the needs of students

Loss of funding or supports for education systems resulting in job or program cuts

Spoken Voice Poem by Art Contest Honorable Mention Juleta Severson-Baker
letter tiles on white surface
Photo by Faith Giant on

These occupational hazards can be prevented and reduced by enacting your HEARTcare Plan.

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