What do teachers really do all day?
I can say that I do significantly more than I did two decades ago, and it’s certainly not in keeping with the province’s health and wellness policies.
Over the years, the responsibilities and demands made on teachers have increased significantly. When I compare my quality of life as expressed in my journals, daytimers and teaching plans in the 1990s to my current workload and quality of life, it’s no wonder I feel like a proverbial hamster on a wheel.
To support my point, Table 1 juxtaposes my typical workday of two decades ago with today’s typical workday.
Over the years—particularly because of the latest inclusion initiative—assessing, planning and preparing resources have become increasingly complex and time consuming as the demand for differentiation grows. Consequently, I am spending at least twice as much time on lesson planning and preparing materials as I used to.
Technology is both a blessing and a curse. As a teaching and learning tool, technology provides the opportunity to stretch my pedagogy and dramatically enhance student learning. However, technology has also opened the door to new avenues of communication and a barrage of daily e-mails from parents, occupational therapists, administrators, school district representatives and others. Reading and responding to e-mails consumes considerably more time than a telephone call or impromptu meeting. More important, because e-mails are not in real time, they have the potential to lose their meaning or be misconstrued.
Beyond demands related directly to teaching and learning are the external demands that leave me mired in the minutiae of paperwork that has nothing to do with teaching. I spend excessive amounts of time struggling through a blizzard of requisition forms that often require extensive written observations and background information—essentially, I have to prepare mini report cards and checklists to obtain resources, support and funding for students.
I’m passionate about my calling as an educator and I’m not afraid to work hard, but my workload is becoming increasingly unmanageable and stressful. Over the past 20 years, my average workday has increased 3.43 hours and an average night’s sleep has decreased 3 hours. My average work week is 57.8 hours, which excludes the three to four hours spent at school on weekends planning the upcoming week or completing report cards (approximately 150 hours annually, based on 20 students in my class).
And I’m not the only one. All one has to do is consider the number of teacher absences and stress leaves to see the perils of the increasingly demanding and burdensome workload of teachers.
Kelli Ewasiuk is a literacy specialist/coach/coordinator, a Division I and II teacher, a Division II FSL teacher and a Grade 1 teacher.