Editor’s Notebook

June 4, 2012
Gordon Thomas

The many hats that teachers wear

It's been a hard day's night
And I've been working like a dog

—Lennon and McCartney

Teachers work hard to benefit their students and society, often to the detriment of their personal lives and families. This issue of the ATA Magazine examines how truly demanding teachers’ “hard day’s night” really are.

The difficulty of balancing one’s job with one’s personal life is the focus of Canadian researcher Linda Duxbury, who is studying 30,000 Canadian workers and their companies. The Association collaborated with Duxbury in a groundbreaking study on how changing circumstances at work and home affect teachers and schools.

In an interview with the ATA Magazine, Duxbury noted that people in the caring professions experience high rates of work intensification. Police officers, nurses and teachers fall into this category; consequently, they are prone to suffer from burnout. Duxbury cites the ATA’s New Work of Teaching: A Case Study of the Worklife of Calgary Public Teachers (ATA 2012) that found Calgary teachers work in the range of 55 hours per week. She warns that women in particular are most vulnerable to burnout caused by working long hours in the classroom, after school and at home. Women, she says, are the main caregivers for young children and elderly parents, and the increased expectations of school boards, parents and society on teachers only add to the stress of many female teachers’ lives. This fact underscores the compelling first-person narratives of teachers featured in the magazine, whose stories provide readers with close-up and personal insights into their daily teaching lives.

In addition to teachers’ personal stories, this issue of the magazine contains articles about the positive effects of teacher collaboration; the challenges facing the future of teachers’ work and teaching; and the work of beginning teachers. The influence of digitally mediated learning environments on teachers’ work is the focus of an article by McRae, Varnhagen and Arkison. Their article highlights research showing that “the exponential growth in digital technologies is profoundly affecting our personal and professional lives and the ways in which we interact as a society.”

Because the demand on teachers and their time is cumulative, I am sometimes pressed to wonder what compels someone to continue teaching, especially when everyone seems to want more and more? I’ll leave it to others to explain. “It’s in the blood,” writes teacher Nicole Lafreniere, and it’s in the “moments of pride, accomplishments, deep empathy and warmth for children that make our profession worth all the sacrifices we make,” she adds. Similarly, teacher Brent Runnett acknowledges that despite “the long hours and hard work ... I teach because I believe I have something to offer … I know I can help.”