Most teachers feel overworked – but that doesn’t stop them from finding the joy in teaching. The biggest problem is the lack of trust and professional integrity from senior leaders, writes one teacher in Tes.
“I have been thinking about how best to explain the conditional to you far more than is strictly healthy” is the kind of line I use pretty often with my Year 11s. And it’s true. I have a shortcut to my MFL Facebook group and I can’t remember how I managed without the constant stream of inspiration and advice from #TeamEnglish on Twitter. On holiday in France, I went around snapping interesting and amusing things to share with my students, and I frequently pull over to take a picture or make a note of an amusing or controversial topic that might get Year 11 enthused about the non-fiction English paper that they worry about.
What’s my point? Teachers don’t mind hard work. No teacher went into teaching for an easy life. (Caveat: I have met two lazy teachers in 20 years. The one who confessed to “using his weeks to recover from his weekends” and the one who started training because her parents said she could only keep living at home if she did so. Neither lasted more than a few months.)
My research for my book, How to Survive in Teaching, showed that 26 per cent of teachers said they worked more than 20 hours a week outside their contracted hours. There’s actually no surprise here. But this statistic alone isn’t what should concern us. How about this one: Some 52 per cent would strongly disagree with the statement “my workload is manageable”.
I would argue that it’s not about the amount of work, but about the nature of the tasks. Here’s what my respondents told me were the biggest contributors to the workload issue – and these persist, despite apparent efforts in recent years to address them:
- “Waffly” meetings, “surprise” meetings and meetings that go on too long.
- Tasks that fall into the category of: “Look! I’m doing my job!” – it’s not enough to have a great idea in the classroom or to set a great piece of homework. It has to be documented. It’s not enough for a student to say, “I love your lesson” – their words must be evidenced for this to “count”. The scourge of “evidence of impact”…
- This is a big one: duplicating data. “We’d like this presented on these smart new forms,” says a data manager to one of my participants. Response: wails of fury and frustration: but it’s “HERE! Look!”
Some 42 per cent would disagree with the statement “I am happy in my work” and 66 per cent have been tearful at work.
And it is down to this: the erosion of trust and professional integrity, which I have come to believe is at the heart of our current crisis in teaching.
School leaders must have faith in their staff: faith that they want to be there; faith that they want to do the best they can. After all, as Chris Chivers always says, “no one comes to work to do a bad job”. Will there be exceptions? Of course, there will. But if senior leadership teams are in offices bemoaning the incompetence of the teachers (enough for many teachers to be losing sleep at night), the results will be nothing short of toxic.
Do you feel the same way? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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