The workload epidemic: do the ends justify the means?

When I bumped into my old headteacher, she was surprised to see me. It was the middle of a school day. Why wasn’t I at school? I told her I’d been signed off work with ‘anxiety’. In reality, it was way more than that. One teacher writes in Tes.

My first observation had been great. I was given minimal feedback to improve on with my mixed-age infant class. The lesson was a good reflection of my day-to-day teaching, the head said she liked my style and the outcomes. My classroom environment, according to her, was the best in the school.

In the following observations, expectations changed again. Children were stopped from gluing during lessons and a strong emphasis was placed on TA time to be solely used to discuss pupil outcomes. I now did the gluing at home. Each lesson daily slips were expected to be filled out with WALT and success criteria. It was nothing I hadn’t already been doing in some way with my class but now they were no longer able to fit on a sticker. They had to be printed, sliced and hand glued in. This alone took an hour and a quarter each evening. It was also recommended that children stop reading on entry to school but instead practice spellings. The mantra was: every single minute they’re in the classroom, they need to be 100 per cent on task.

Next, the assessment system, tracking, and marking system changed.

Gluing and typing consumed my evening. I typed daily plans, pasted objectives into grids to print, made endless PowerPoint presentations, as recommended by the head, to supplement the daily planning. I spent hours mounting children’s work, the learning intentions and the success criteria to be displayed in the classroom the next day.

My son started to tell me he missed me: I saw him for an hour after I came home before it was his bedtime. We’d rush a meal and play a board game. I often lacked the energy to play and a glass of wine in the evenings easily became two as I listened to my husband watch evening television in the neighbouring room, his workload long finished. He too was a teacher, but at a different school.

It was with this moment of clarity that I handed my notice in then. “But you’re good,” the head uttered and I told her that somewhere along the line that message had been lost. I cited work life balance in my letter to governors. Tears rolled down my face as the truth came out in a whispered breath: “It takes all of me and I can’t keep doing this.”

At this time, one evening around 8pm, an email about a new workbook and more daily slips to glue for all pupils was whipped around. I lashed into my wrists. My long nails glided over the skin, reddening my flesh and taking control of the rage I felt as yet another unassessed change impacted.

I walked downstairs and confessed my self-harm immediately to my husband. I should have left then. but I continued for another week. That week we were all observed again, this time by a headteacher from another local school. The unobserved input was good but the lesson later fell apart. The pitch wasn’t high enough for the ablest pupils and it led to some disruptive behaviour as they exhausted two planned extensions. It wasn’t my norm. I declined verbal feedback. In the supermarket that evening, I bought a small bottle of wine and drank it in the car. At home, I poured gin upon gin when steaming through some planning.

Read the full article The workload epidemic: do the ends justify the means?

Does this sound like your life? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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