Note: I love my school and all staff and students who work at my school. This post isn’t about how my school works. It’s about teaching in general.
I read a post tititled, How far can you stretch a piece of elastic before it snaps, this week and it really resonated with me. The post highlighted how the increasing workload demands on teachers are affecting their wellbeing. When I first started my current position, an older, more experienced teacher told me to watch myself because schools are blood suckers. They will keep drawing your blood unless you set the limits. It doesn’t matter how much blood you give, they will find a way to draw more until you are sucked dry.
This is a rather gruesome analogy that I don’t believe in 100%. I do believe that my school and the people who work in it all respect each other’s wellbeing and look after each other. But the post with the elastic band strategy and the blood sucking analogy highlights something that is rarely spoken about in schools – the effects of workload on teacher health and wellbeing.
One of the reasons I think many teachers feel they are stretched to the limit is the sheer amount of work involved in teaching. The following is a list of some thing steachers do:
- Plan lessons & create resources
- Marking and providing feedback to students
- Work with colleagues to plan cross curricular lessons like project based learning
- Teach classes
- Admin and paper work – registers, recording student achievement data, entering professional learning hours onto a database, etc
- Organising and running excursions, incursions and other extra-curricular activities like training sporting teams
- Meetings – faculty meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, parent meetings (there are many more types)
- Observing other teachers’ lessons & providing feedback to them
- Following up on student learning issues with a range of people including parents, counsellors, other teachers, etc
- Follow up on emails – many, many emails
- Create and monitor budgets for the area you are responsible for – faculty, sport, special programs
This is not an exhaustive list. I have probably forgotten to list a dozen more things teachers do on a regular basis. My question is can these things be done within work hours? I’m not talking about a 9-3 school day. I’m talking about a 8-5 work day that most other people in society work. My feeling is teachers cannot do what they need to do in a 9 hour working day and this is 9 hours straight. Many teachers do not eat, drink or even go to the bathroom at work because that is just not enough time.
My next question is is this what we expect teachers to do. Is teaching a job where to do everything you need to do, you have to put in 9 hours straight with no breaks at school, then work another 3 hours at home and then work 8 hours over the weekend?
People who know me may say that this post is just me adjusting to working full time after the birth of my baby. It isn’t. I have felt like this for a long time. Many other teachers with or without kids feel this way. Many don’t want to say anything because sharing these thoughts may result in getting labeled as unproductive, ineffective, or uncommitted to your students. The last one is the worst assumption.
Are you a teacher? Do you think a teacher’s work can be done in work hours with minimal impact on personal wellbeing? Are teachers stretched to the limit?