Saturday, February 12, 2011

Teaching rocks, but the workload sucks.

I, like many of my fellow teacher-friends and colleagues, have spent most of this weekend doing schoolwork. I marked, I planned, I marked and I planned...and I still didn't get nearly as much done as I would have liked. This is not because I have silly - as opposed to smart - work habits, nor is it because I am a procrastinator. It is because the workload for the average secondary school teacher is simply too big.

Secondary school teachers teach five classes each (unless they have middle-management responsibilities, which certainly does not reduce the workload in any way). That's 20 teaching hours per week. This is the best part of my job, in my opinion. I love being in the classroom, interacting and guiding the kids in their learning, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when students 'get it'.

I also enjoy the planning. And the better you plan, the better your lesson, I reckon. As a responsible teacher, you have to take into account your students' needs, and then create lessons to fit those students which will engage and facilitate learning. NB: There are a lot of demands on teachers in terms of planning today, compared to, say, 15-20 years ago when I was at high school. No longer can a teacher get away with seating a class in alphabetical order and make them copy in silence from a blackboard for an ENTIRE YEAR (yes, Mrs Whatever-your-name-was who took me for Third Form Economics, your 'teaching' sucked). This is a good thing - in the end, teachers are there to teach, not to be a big scary authority figure. However, it means we need more time to plan - how else can we cater for students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, who speak a variety of first languages, who learn in a variety of different ways, working at a variety of curriculum levels? The PPTA has won teachers more non-contact hours in the past which rocks...but still, the workload is a killer.

Ah, the marking. It's great seeing your students improve in their assessment results. It's awesome when a student gets an Achieved with Excellence. But the marking is constant, and while I fully support NCEA (in the sense that it's a much more democratic way of assessing senior students) it has caused major workload issues. For teachers and students. I can only imagine how stressful it would be having to sit assessment after assessment all year, and then having to sit a whopping final exam too. Probably almost as stressful as marking up to 30 (or more, depending on the school) assessments every week...

Teachers also attend form time and duty, which are essential in managing the general well-being of the students in any school. During form time and duty we interact constantly with students. During parent-teacher evenings (of which the average teacher would do at least 2 a year) we interact constantly with parents. We also interact with parents through via student reports, which take a loooooong time to write, and which we have to do at least twice a year. And we phone home. Yet nothing other than the 20 hours of teaching is considered 'contact' time.

And lets not forget all the extra-curricular activities that teachers are expected to do. Actually, it's usually in their contract. And extra-curricular activities are heaps of fun. But it's yet another thing that teachers have to do.

I'm sure I haven't even covered all of the things teachers do. But that wasn't my aim. My point stands; the workload is too big. 

Many teachers work all weekend, most weekends. Some teachers work all school holidays. And that's not good enough. We need a reduced workload. More non-contacts. More respect wouldn't go amiss either (please don't feel the need to remind us that we have "good holidays" or "decent pay"). 

I would like to see education, teachers and students valued once again by society. I'd like to see students getting the most out of lessons, not just what the teacher managed to whip up in the small amount of time they had to plan for that lesson. I both hope for and look forward to it.

And I'd like to have a weekend in which I can read a book or watch a movie and hang out with friends...



  1. I just wrote an awesome comment and then lost it when I hit 'post comment' aaarrrggghhh!

  2. Argh!! Stupid blogspot. Re-post?

  3. Hear, hear! As the partner of a teacher I would also like to see a decreased teacher workload, and a freeing up of weekends. :)


Surviving Severe Sleep Deprivation

Nothing can prepare you for the sleep deprivation that follows when you have a baby; I think most parents would agree with me there. ...