COVID | Free Full-Text | Rising Strong: The Interplay between Resilience, Social Support, and Post-Traumatic Growth among Teachers after the COVID-19 Pandemic
The present study fills this gap in the literature. We examined the positive effects of the ongoing stressful situation on teachers by investigating their resilience and social support resources after the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.1. Theoretical Model: Post-Traumatic Growth
Endowing meaning to a stressful situation generates a positive life change and a sense of growth in five domains, as reported below.
1.2. The Present Study
Most studies that examined the psychosocial condition in schools post-COVID-19 predominantly focused on the negative aspects of teachers’ emotional well-being. However, little is known about the positive effects of ongoing stress. It may be necessary to identify factors that affect post-traumatic growth to protect teachers’ mental health and promote their growth after trauma. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the associations between personal resources (resilience, social support) and post-traumatic growth following the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, this study, to our knowledge, is the first to examine differences in the levels of post-traumatic growth between special education teachers and general education teachers in Israel after the traumatic experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even on days when COVID-19 is not spreading, we can learn from this emergency about the post-traumatic growth of teachers who have functioned as essential helpers over time. Teachers’ mental health has a significant impact on children’s development and their relationship with other students. The study of teachers’ post-traumatic growth can help in identifying factors that affect such growth. This knowledge can assist government officials and mental health professionals in promoting targeted practical measures to improve teachers’ well-being and minimize mental health risks in the post-COVID-19 era.
The study tested the following hypotheses:
The levels of resilience and social support among teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic are positively associated with their post-traumatic growth.
Resilience and social support will predict post-traumatic growth among teachers.
Post-traumatic growth differs between special education teachers and those teaching general education, so that special education teachers (SET) will experience higher post-traumatic growth than general education teachers.
2.1. Study Participants
The average age of the participating teachers was 40.62 years (range: 24–62, SD = 8.62), and approximately a third had five to ten years of teaching experience (64 teachers, 30.9%). More than half of the participants taught in the general education system (108 teachers, 52.2%), while 99 taught in special education (47.8%). Most of the teachers had no underlying illnesses (72%) and were vaccinated against coronavirus (88.9%). More than half of the teachers had a child aged 0–6 years (108 teachers, 52.2%). Most teachers were Jewish (203 teachers, 98%)
In terms of demographics, the teachers who taught in general education and those in special education did not show significant differences in gender, marital status, education, financial status, and health status. Furthermore, no differences between the two groups emerged regarding the percentage of job employment (full versus part-time), the years of teaching experience, or the subjects taught. Finally, more teachers in general education became infected with the coronavirus than in special education [χ2(1) = 9.82**].
2.2. Research Procedure
The Ethics Committee approved the study at the University of the authors (authorization no. 1062021), confirming its compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The researchers converted the questionnaire to an online format, including an informed consent form that the research participants completed to access the questionnaire. The research questionnaire was anonymous, and the researchers distributed it through a link sent to dedicated groups of teachers through social media networks (via Facebook). The study was carried out during November 2022, one year after schools were reopened in Israel and when face-to-face learning was carried out.
2.3. Research Tools
The following research tools were used in the present study.
2.3.1. Independent Variables
Personal Information Questionnaire: the questionnaire examines the following variables: age, gender, marital status, number of children, religion, number of years of education, subjective economic status, employment status during the last year, subjective health status, pre-existing medical conditions, past or present COVID-19 infection, and vaccination against COVID-19.
2.3.2. Dependent Variable
2.4. Research Data Analysis
The data were analyzed using SPSS software, version 27. A Pearson test was conducted to examine the associations between the research variables. The researchers used a linear regression test of the independent variables (resilience and social support) to predict post-traumatic growth among teachers. An independent sample t-test was used to test the differences between special education teachers and general education teachers.
The sample size was calculated using G*Power 3.1 for variance analysis to compare the two groups (general education/special education) with three control variables. The analysis showed that a sample of 200 teachers was required to achieve a power of 0.80, α = 0.05, and a medium effect size of f = 0.20. This sample allowed for a linear regression analysis involving up to 20 independent variables, a power of 0.90, α = 0.05, and a medium effect size f2 = 0.15.
The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the associations between resilience, social support, and traumatic growth among teachers post the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the study sought to determine whether there are differences in the level of post-traumatic growth between teachers in special education and teachers in regular education.
4.2. Practical Implications
The study findings attest to the importance of collegial support among teachers; therefore, social support should be stressed after crises and emergencies similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, interventions that provide information on social support and collaborative sharing can help reduce teacher stress and promote resilience and post-traumatic growth, especially for teachers in the general education system. Educational policy-makers and school leaders can implement the following concrete guidelines to bolster teachers’ coping skills, nurture their sense of belonging, and foster collegial support during future crisis situations. First, establish teacher support groups as structured spaces for sharing experiences and coping strategies during and after crises. Encourage collegial support and maintain open communication channels to facilitate an ongoing interaction among teachers. Second, conduct resilience workshops that address stress management, work–life balance, and coping skills tailored to the specific needs of teachers in both general and special education. These workshops, led by professional trainers, will equip teachers with effective tools to navigate challenges during future emergencies. Finally, foster an inclusive school culture by valuing open communication, involving teachers in decision-making processes related to crisis responses, and creating a sense of belonging within the school community. Following these guidelines will enhance teachers’ collective resilience and social support, ensuring a positive and productive learning environment during challenging times. Such intervention initiatives are vital to promote effective functioning and general resilience among teachers in both general and special education. School administrators can ensure that training is provided to help teachers acquire effective tools to maintain balance in their professional and personal lives.
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