It is unfortunate that the Herald chose to include in this important story an inflated and misleading calculation of teachers’ hourly wage obtained by dividing the top teacher’s salary by the norm for assignable time set out in the Alberta Teachers’ Association proposal for a framework agreement. None of the parties involved in tripartite discussions are suggesting that teachers’ work is limited to their assigned hours. This error does however provide an opportunity for some much needed clarification.
Teacher work can be broadly classified into three nested categories: instructional, assignable and professional obligations. Instructional work refers to the duties that a teacher has where they are present with students guiding learning; this is the classroom work of teachers that most people are familiar with. Assignable duties are those things, in addition to instruction, that a teacher’s principal or school board assigns them to do. This category includes things like staff meetings, supervision, assigned professional development, completing paperwork or reporting to parents through mandated mechanisms like report cards or online reporting tools.
Professional obligations, on the other hand, include all of the other tasks a teacher undertakes in order to carry out their professional instruction and assessment duties and create a positive experience for students. Examples include planning for instruction, preparing class materials, after class tutoring, designing and creating assessments, grading assignments, collaborating with colleagues, contacting parents, self-directed professional development and voluntary co-curricular and extra-curricular projects. The hours that teachers dedicate to these necessary professional obligations are conveniently ignored in Cuthbertson’s calculation.
Teachers are very concerned about the increasing amount and number of assigned duties being given to them. While some support learning and benefit students, others amount to bureaucratic busy work and red tape. Reducing the amount of assignable time as outlined in the Association’s proposal, would help to free teachers to focus on their core work, teaching and making a real difference in the lives of students.
Carol D Henderson