Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Understanding Teacher Workload

I've been sitting on this blog for weeks. I think part of the problem is that I have too many ideas going on. So I'm going to break it down and do three separate blogs on three different topics.But as I'm typing this, my eyes are burning, they're tired. I'm tired. Since I've come to the school, I've really tried to make it a priority to be in the halls and mingle with the students and staff as much as possible. But does the administration work ever suffer! I'm not complaining, but I don't think the general population realizes how draining a day can be at school.

People make comments like; "It must be nice to only work 10 months and have the summers off?"  Actually it's very nice, and if I didn't have the summer off, I think I would burn out. The average day is busy with dealing with student matters, teacher challenges, administrative paperwork or reporting requirements, maintenance issues, safety concerns, or upset parent. The list goes on. And that's just the demands that I have on my day. The teachers have it tough too.

I feel empathy for teachers who are busy with daily lesson planning, tweaking up long range plans, doing assessments, Individual Programming Plans (IPP - which are incredibly time consuming), and then add extra-curricular on top of that to the daily routine. Then if you are teaching the Grade 3, 6, or 9, there's Performance Achievement Tests (PAT) or now the new Student Learning Assessments (SLA) to have the students prepare for. Or any of the elementary teachers who are required to do FnP reading diagnostics on every student, which take a minimum of 30 minutes per student multiply that by 25. Or the Grade 12 teacher having students write practice Diploma exams in preparation of the Provincial Exams at the end of the semester. Then there is the School Division required Professional Learning Community (PLC's) hours that need to be completed for Lieu days. It's a lot of  work being a teacher, and somewhere along the way they need to teach. In the midst of all the busy work or "administrivia" it's easy to lose sight of the real reason we are here in the first place and that's the students.

Did you know that the average teacher works more than 50 hours a week, which is causing alarm about happiness and wellbeing in the profession. As I'm writing this I overhear a teacher outside my office talking about how exhausted they are. They are so tired they are feeling dizzy, and when they go home at 8PM, they are going straight to bed. It's 7:03PM, and we're still at the school.

n=60 hours per week (the extra is due to extra-curricular
like coaching sports teams)
n=52 hours per week

Unfortunately teachers don't get a lot of recognition for the time they put into the day as they teach and the evening or the weekend they spending planning and preparing. I love the analogy from Alex Quigley, who recently wrote in his blog, Teacher Workload in the Shadow of OFSTED, comparing the working life of a teacher to an iceberg.

The hours in the classroom, visible to all, are merely the tip of the to-do list. The workload iceberg sinks deep into evenings; it can crash into weekends and it looms large in each supposed ‘holiday‘. Marking, lesson planning and a mass of paperwork are ubiquitous for the vast majority of teachers. Each teacher careers headlong toward exhaustion until rescued by the end of each half-term. Those give us pause to breath and recuperate; plan some more; finish off marking; prepare resources and mend our health before jumping back onto the swim to do it all again.

And yet teachers are not looking for sympathy, they just want people to understand what they do everyday. That's our virtue this week at the school, "Understanding." Understanding is using your mind to think clearly, paying attention to see the meaning of things. An understanding mind gives you insights and wonderful ideas. An understanding heart gives you empathy and compassion for others. Understanding is the power to think and learn and also to care.

As I spoke to the staff this morning, I encouraged them to practice understanding with the students and each other. I hope that the general public can also practice understanding and appreciate the work our teachers put in to our schools to ensure that students have the best education possible and a bright and promising future. 

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