SYSTEM – Pedagogy, Responsibility, & Policy

The system refers to interventions that are larger than a staff team.

It includes school boards, professional associations or unions, and the governmental departments that guide and direct the work of educational workers through direct policies or informal expectations, tendencies, or practices.

When system priorities are unclear, muddled, or contradictory, individuals can flounder and feel helpless or hopeless to make a difference in the lives of their colleagues and students.

When systems articulate clear priorities and fund, support, and resource them adequatelyindividuals can flourish.

“I often feel overwhelmed by the various emotional, behavioral, and academic needs of my students, and I feel pressure to address them all, even with limited support. When I can’t effectively address my students’ needs, I feel guilt and shame that I’ve failed, and I feel angry at the system for expecting teachers to manage so much and do so much with so little support. I feel conflicted when working with students who I know have or are experiencing trauma, as my instinct is to prioritize their mental health and well-being, but I also feel pressure from admin and the system to push academics when it feels like the focus should be on supporting the child’s mental health.” (Survey Open-Ended response)

Image Created by Art Contest Winner Sarah Murray

School boards or professional associations can mandate that educators include an occupational health goal in their yearly professional plans. The Alberta Teachers Association has a digital self-reflection tool that can be used to get yourself started.

Systems leaders and policymakers can encourage collective compassion – the organizational responsibility to recognize, understand, and respond effectively to the suffering of their employees or staff.


The work of reconciliation in Canada is work that supersedes individual efforts and requires collective action. Working to apply Indigenous knowledge and practices as mandated by the Teaching Quality Standard is one key system intervention.

System interventions include:

Photo by Astrid Kendrick

Resources that support building collective wellbeing at work:

  • The College of Alberta School Superintendents Workplace Wellness series
  • The work wellness series produced by Canada Life
  • The Well at Work initiative by the EdCan Network
  • The PodClass learning initiative by EverActive Schools – The first series, Conversations on School Health, is a collaboration with the Werklund School of Education that looks at maximizing the health and well-being of students and teachers.
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