“You have to stick out the toughness of the business and form relationships with the people in it.” – Attributed to Rocco DiSpirito
It is only week three of term three, and already I feel like I have been battered from pillar to post. I am struggling to get into this term, and a few colleagues across a few different schools have made similar comments, so I know it is not just me. There have been a number of issues early this term which been high on the urgent and important scale, the building project in our scale continues to progress and cause anxiousness amongst many staff members about the changes, there is the ongoing stress of not being a permanent teacher, a number of units of work I am planning for future use, ideas and things that I want to try in my pedagogical practice, our semester two programs are due shortly, and to top it off, Mrs C21’s due date for our first child is only a few weeks away (25th August), but we have been told it is likely to come early given its size (Mrs C21 is terrified the baby will be size of my brother who was 10lb 9oz / 4.8kg).
I (rather foolishly, in hindsight), wrote late last year that I did not feel like I had had a proper first year out as a teacher, as I was in an RFF position. I should have kept my mouth closed. The conversations have already started about staffing for next year, as there is a huge shift going to occur in the school with the rebuild, a number of retirements this year bringing in different teachers, and a number of temporary teachers, including myself, who are going to be hoping for a new contract, some teachers going on maternity leave, and some permanent full-time teachers hoping to drop back to part-time. I do not envy our Principal his job, especially given that it looks like we are going to be on the threshold of crossing to having enough numbers for another staffing allocation.
I was away for the entirety of the first week of the mid-year holidays, acting as a referee coach and mentor, along with eleven others, to thirty-two teenagers at the Kanga Cup Youth Referee Academy, a part of my year that I look forward to, but which is incredibly draining mentally and physically. Week two of the holidays was essentially spent at school, planning with Mrs. W for the term. Of course, two weeks in, having been happy with what I had planned for my literacy sessions, I decided that it was not working the way i wanted it to, and have had to change it again.
Life is hectic at the moment. I am tired, frustrated, have too many things I want to and not enough time to do them in, am not sleeping, am eating chocolate like it is going out of fashion, and have not been able to get engaged with the term so far which is frustrating me a great deal. I have also not been able to get any writing done so far this term, and likely will not for a while.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― Attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien
There is something to be said for the positive impact that sharing a meal with colleagues in a non-work context has upon your mental state, your happiness, and your stress levels. Term one was eleven weeks long, and by week eight, I was feeling mentally and physically drained. My goal at the start of the year to maintain a healthier balance between work and home life was not going particularly well, and I felt like I was not achieving enough in the classroom.
I and a few other colleagues are what you might term early birds in regards to when we arrive at school to begin our preparation. I am typically in my room at 0600 and the others not long afterwards. Wanting to actually spend some time having social conversations with them as opposed to purely educator conversations, I suggested that we all meet for breakfast one morning at a cafe which is a comfortable five-minute stroll away from school in the last week of the term. There was immediate acceptance and “oh, what a great idea!”
We met up at 0615 on the Wednesday of week eleven for breakfast, and I cannot overstate how enjoyable it was. The food was great and very well priced, and the company was excellent. I learned more about my colleagues over the course of the meal than I have in the last twelve months. We banned any shop-talk and after enjoying our breakfast, enjoyed a very casual stroll back to school in the beautifully warm sunshine, enjoying a nice relaxing and fun start to the day. For me, that short meal changed my mental state. Whereas I had arrived at school that morning a tired and frustrated teacher looking forward to the end of the term, I arrived back in my room an hour later feeling refreshed, invigorated and excited for the day.
As educators, we underestimate the importance of taking time out to socialise with each other, and get to know our colleagues without the pressures of listening for the bell to the get to class or playground duty, without the hustle and bustle of students knocking on the staffroom door, or the phone ringing, or trying to contact parents, or complete the never-ending marking.
We are looking to get together for breakfast again in week five of this term, before the insanity that is report writing begins, and I am already looking forward to it. If you have not shared a meal with colleagues, make the suggestion that you all meet up for breakfast, or go out for dinner together. When I was on internship, the Stage Three teachers banked all of their release time for a week into one day and took the day as a collaborative planning day. It was incredibly productive, collegial and relaxed. Share a meal and enjoy getting to know your colleagues. It is good for your mental health and you might just have fun.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
– Attributed to Michael Jordan
Recently I have been writing about the struggles, the frustration and the challenges that I have encountered to this point in the school year. Yesterday, however, I wrote, very briefly, that something had changed, and that I was feeling much more positively about things. I was unable to expand on what I felt that was as I had to go to a referee fitness test in Newcastle. The good news on that front is that I hit the goal I had set for myself for the test in order to be eligible to be appointed to a particular level of match during the season.
I made the decision on Sunday, after having a stress attack, that I would go to bed, get up early and get started with a clear mind. Accordingly, I was in my classroom at 0600, and I found it to be an incredibly productive two and a half hours until the bell rang for the start of class. I began that day with a better idea of what I needed to achieve in my teaching, which meant that my teaching was clearer and more concise, with less waffle.
I made the decision to be at school nice and early, again, for Tuesday morning, and began teaching on Tuesday with a very clear vision of what I wanted to achieve, how I would achieve it and what I could afford to drop if there were time constraints or unexpected interruptions.
Today, I was again in my room at 0600 preparing for the day ahead I feel like I have turned a corner. The key, rather obviously, is my planning. I have a very clear idea of what I want to get done today, what I can afford to drop if there are time issues, and what the learning goal is for each session., and it is showing, both in my teaching and in the way the students are behaving and engaging with the tasks they have been asked to complete.
Last year, as I mentioned in a previous article, I was tasked with teaching digital literacy skills; skills that I could utilise standing on my head whilst asleep. Having been thinking about it, I believe that I allowed some bad habits to creep into my planning. Whilst I had a program that I had put together, I was rarely looking at it, making decisions about next learning steps based upon what I felt made sense from where the cohort was, how they had coped with learning a particular skill or piece of knowledge, and what fitted around the multitude of interruptions that we were experiencing in the school.
This is not the way to teach. I was utilising the seven-step planning process (that is, planning what you would be doing in the seven steps before you reach the class door) more regularly then I care to admit, and I allowed those poor habits to carry over to this year, in conjunction with struggling to wrap my head around all of the extra responsibilities and tasks that go hand-in-hand with having a class.
A colleague who habitually arrives at school early each day commented to me this morning that they had noticed I had been in early the last few mornings, and when I replied with how productive I had been finding it, they gave me a knowing grin, and replied that when there is no one else here, there is no onto distract you but yourself, and that having a clear plan can create incredibly productive mornings.
The key, I believe, is that my planning has been more focused. Rather than focusing on what I want to achieve, I am also allowing myself to consider how I will achieve that, how I will check for understanding, what aspects I can afford to drop if we run out of time, or there are interruptions and also what resources I need to achieve the goal.
Today was, for the year so far, the most productive day that I believe I and my students have had, and that was with losing essentially the whole middle session to scripture. Tomorrow is my day off, however, I will be back in here at 0600 tomorrow morning as it is school photo day and if I need to be in here (I do not, of course, but I want to be here for my first school photos with a class of my own), then I may as well make it a productive day.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope that your day has been as productive and left you with the same sense of achievement as mine has.
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” – Attributed to Jamais Cascio
What strategies do you employ to weather the storm that is the beginning of the school year and the mental chaos and stress that it generates? What advice would you give to pre-service teachers or new graduates to set them up to get through the chaos of term one mentally intact?
I have been finding this term mentally and physically stressful, draining and tiring, despite my contract being for three days as opposed to the four days of last year.That said, last year, I was tasked solely with teaching digital literacy skills in an RFF capacity, a role that I think, as I was reflecting last night whilst talking to Mrs. C21st, I took too lightly, as the skills I was teaching are skills that I think I could perform in my sleep whilst standing on my head, and so allowed some bad habits to creep in, in regards to planning for specific lessons.
This year, I am finding that there is so much more to do than what I was aware of from my ITE and even from last year. There are whole facets of teaching that do not get touched upon in, well, not the ITE program which I completed. The actually planning and programming from a scope and sequence that has been prescribed by the school, the administration required on a daily basis including everything from marking, checking books, interacting with parents, staff meetings, committee meetings, extra-curricular activities such as sports teams and debating, reassuring the student who’s struggling to feel comfortable socially that they do have friends, giving your banana to the kid who has no lunch, buying a water filter because the water in the taps tastes bad and on top of everything else, changing numeracy scope and sequences halfway through the term (though when the one that was being used made no sense, I actually do not mind that one, as frustrating as it is), having to prepare Individual Education Plans for any student who requires an adjustment for their learning.
In addition, this is also the start of the football (soccer) preseason, which brings its own time requirements, especially given that I am refereeing with a branch that is an hour away.Pre-season seminars, courses to upgrade my Referee Assessor (coach) qualifications, pre-season trial games, an FFA Cup match, training, fitness tests and other meetings have seen me spend about four or five hours just travelling each week, on top of the actual time at the event.
Then there is the chaos that comes about from Mrs C21st now being pregnant, which though things have been relatively smooth so far, with more nausea than actually being sick, it has brought its own challenges, especially in regards to food and working out what smells set her nausea off. Thus far, it has not been as bad as it could be, with the smell of red meat cooking, chia seeds, and some yoghurts being the main things that set her off, and our (her) consumption of white peaches necessitating the purchase of a fresh bag of six peaches every two to three days.
At the end of my first day of my first practicum back in 2012, in a Year Six class, I was hooked, I had the buzz, the rush of adrenalin that comes when a student has an a-ha! moment and gets it, and I thought to myself that, yes, I was in the right profession. I would be lying if I denied having wondered about the truth of that thought in the last week. Recently, I asked for feedback about pursuing a permanent posting, and Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) commented that I should continue to pursue a permanent posting, as being granted that would also see me gain access to significant additional funding for mentoring and guidance in planning and programming and early professional development opportunities.
I think it is fantastic that new, permanently-employed teachers have access to that resource to help gain their footing, and I do remember hearing one my friends from university who was permanently appointed straight out of university, talk about that and how she would be struggling even more than she was, without the time that it gave her to get her head around all of the tasks that were never mentioned during our ITE.
As far as I am aware (and if I am wrong, please correct me!), as a temporary or casual teacher, I do not have access to this assistance. Whilst I understand, from a practicality and management point of view why casual teachers do not have access to it (which school manages it etc), I think it is as important that temporary and casual teacher’s gain access to it in some format, even if only on a pro-rata basis. I am contracted, for the year, at .6. Why should I not be able to access .6 of the full amount in order to gain some guidance, mentoring and assistance in wrapping my head around everything? Why could a casual teacher with a good working relationship, whether with a particular school or a particular teacher, not nominate that teacher/school to be their mentor, and some sort of agreement is negotiated to provide the assistance to the new teacher?
There has to be a way for this to be better, and more equitably managed. There seems to be a regular discourse about the shortage of teachers and the rates of new teachers that are leaving the profession within their first five years being abominably high. Why can we not seem to come up with a way to put in place, for those new graduates who want it, access to assistance that is currently restricted to one small portion of the workforce?
I have not had one of those days since my last article on that topic, however, I have not particularly enjoyed my teaching lately as I am too busy stressing about getting through everything I have ben told I need to get through. I suspect that my desire to complete my referee qualification upgrade this season will fall by the wayside as it will be the first casualty of the year due to the amount of time that refereeing sucks up.
On the plus side, other than a few nights, (including tonight, but Mrs. C21st is out at a training night), I have done well in not doing work at home when Mrs. C21st has been at home as well. That said, I have been getting to school at around 0630, and have often only left earlier than 1800 due to appointments.
I had a bit of a stress-out last night. I had lost Saturday as I was refereeing an FFA Cup (the assessor was happy, I got a result in regular time, ran just under fifteen kilometres according to my GPS unit, and took just under sixteen thousand steps) and then spent the remainder of the day completing paperwork and reports and going through my post-match recovery program. Sunday we spent in Sydney seeing some family and friends we had not seen in a few months, and it was dinner time when we arrived home. I ended up getting a little bit of planning done for what I need to do, and was in bed at 2030, and then here this morning at 0615, with a fresher, cooler head.
Today did actually well. I get through everything I wanted to, except for three activities, and only half of my reading groups.But I think that, despite what I wrote earlier about taking work home, that I will take the night for myself to relax, go for a light run (I have a fitness test tomorrow afternoon) and then an early night.
I do have faith that I will make it through this term, we are, after all, halfway through. I do remember feeling like this when I first started working in one of my previous occupations, and asking my manager at the time what I was doing wrong that I was not getting through my workload each day, and stressing out about it. I do not know what changed, but it did and suddenly one day, I was the one helping others get through their workload. I believe I will get there, and that at the moment I am somewhere in transitory phase between consciously incompetent and consciously competent.
That said, I would love to hear strategies, whether mental or physical, that you use to get through this chaotic time of year.
As always, thank you for reading. I do have photo of my new classroom to update the header of this blog, I just have not had time to upload it yet.
“Time stays long enough for those who use it.“
– Attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci
I am looking for some feedback on my teaching career progression and am hoping that you, my readers, are able to help. Last year I was fortunate enough to gain regular casual employment each week until I was eventually offered a temporary contract from Term Two through to the end of the year.That role was as a Release from Face-to-Face (RFF), or as I have heard it called elsewhere, Non-Contact or Supply Teaching. In this capacity, I had a timetable wherein I moved from class to class at set times, teaching digital literacy to students from Kindergarten up to Year Six.
This year, I have been offered a contract for the full year on a Year Five and Six composite class, for three days a week. I am discovering a great number of tasks that last year went unnoticed by me, as they did not fall within my purview, mainly administration issues. I had a conversation with another teacher recently who has gone the other way, from teaching a class in a job-share arrangement, back to an RFF role, and it was interesting that she is discovering all of the things that she no longer has to worry about.
It makes me glad that I was not offered a permanent position immediately after graduating, as I am not sure how I would have coped, worrying about programming and planning, accreditation, the actual teaching and building relationships with my students, if I had also been required to complete the various paperwork and administration with which I am now faced. It enabled me to spend a year focusing on my pedagogy and classroom habits, which I believe has put me in a position for this year where I am not as stressed about juggling everything.
It has also made me think about my career progression. The end goal, for myself, at least, is to gain a permanent position in a classroom. However at this point in time, and I am open to feedback on this, I am considering that I am better off not applying for permanent jobs this year. That might sound odd, however, I feel that in the long run, my teaching, and therefore, my students would be better served by having a full year in a class, with a full year’s worth of teaching a single class with all of the associated experiences which come with that, rather than potentially being offered a permanent position mid-year, causing consistency issues for myself and both sets of students.
Students are resilient, and would get over it, however as someone who changed schools a lot as a student, I feel that the disruption, and the time for students to adapt to a new teachers routines, processes, and quirks, mid-year, would cause significant issues in regards to classroom more issues than would be worth it.
Of course, the alternative would be to simply ask my Principal to not release me until the end of the year, should I be offered a permanent position elsewhere, which I have heard of happening. However, I am not sure how well that idea would be received, both by the current Principal and my new Principal.
My reasoning makes sense to me and I am happy with the decision, but I am open to feedback and other ideas on the issue from those more experienced.
“It is essential for students that all teachers — casual, temporary or full time — meet the Proficient Teacher standards within a reasonable period…[e]ven casual teachers should have a supervisor to support them…this is a reasonable expectation of schools and school systems.” the [Department of Education] spokesman said. – Alison Branley, The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13th February 2016
I entered university to undertake my initial teaching education at the start of 2010, and I have distinct memories of hearing, for at least the ten years leading up to that point, that there were significant teacher shortages, which, coupled with the apparent looming retirement of thousands of teachers nationally, was leading to a crisis in education. This narrative has continued every since, and I recall when I was in my third year of my ITE that there was an uproar after this article was published by The Sydney Morning Herald.
I was not overly concerned at the time, confident that I would be able to find casual work, as I had also heard that there was a shortage of casual teachers on the Central Coast. There was also an element of that’s-a-problem-for-future-me in my putting off worrying about it. I am conscious of the fact that I was very fortunate that I had no problems gaining regular casual employment almost straight after finishing my ITE and that I was was then offered a contract for four days a week from Term Two last and then for this year as well.
I attribute this to a few reasons.Firstly, I had an excellent relationship with my supervising teacher, the staff, and students whilst on my first practicum, to the point where I was offered a place on the Year Six Canberra excursion which occurred during my final week there; an invaluable opportunity from which I learned a lot about being on an overnight excursion. After I completed my practicum, my supervising teacher invited to come back in whenever I wanted and help out, an invitation I took him up on, going in to help out when my university timetable allowed.I continued to visit and help out throughout the remainder of my studies, keeping my face known and building rapport with the staff and students, and continuing to learn about myself as a teacher. I was told in no uncertain terms to be sure to let them know when I received my approval to teach so that they could add me to the list of casual teachers. I built that relationship, worked to develop and maintain it and reaped the benefits when I graduated.
The second reason was that in week two of 2015, having allowed schools a week to settle back in, I printed out and hand delivered a copy of my resume and the relevant paperwork to twenty schools, meeting the person who managed the casual teacher list where I was able to, and finding out the name of that person, if unable to do so. I hear a lot of anecdotal stories about people complaining they are unable to gain casual employment, and many of them, from what I hear, have not gone out and done the rounds of their local schools, beyond a small selection of up to four or five. I delivered resumes to twenty and heard back from only four schools, one of whom was the school at which I completed my first practicum and another from whom I did not have a call until around August after I was already engaged on a temporary contract.
I may have ended up working casually at only three schools, however, that was three callbacks from twenty resumes.
Recently, there has been another round of articles talking about this issue, both from a job shortage point of view as well as from the point of view of the tertiary sector’s responsibility to the education industry as the provider’s of ITE programs, as well ongoing discussions about this topic within the education community on Twitter.
“I’m really angry especially with universities because the universities are the ones pushing the line ‘come and do a teaching degree and you’ll get a job’. They must know that’s false.”
– Steve Elliot, ABC News 13 February 2016
The ABC News article, written by Alison Branley, indicates that up to forty percent of graduates are unable to find work within four months of graduating, which can make it difficult to fulfill the requirement to work one hundred and eighty days within a five-year period, which is the time limit to complete the movement from Provisionally to Proficiently accredited.
As someone who is on a temporary contract, I have access to Professional Development opportunities through the school and support to piece together my portfolio of evidence for my own accreditation. As a casual teacher, however, that support is not as readily available to you, as schools’ funding is for professional development is limited, and does not often allow the provision of professional development to casual teachers, without those teachers bearing the cost of the course. Alison cites (uncredited) some interesting statistics, which, if taken at face-value, are frightening:
Teacher’s who do not gain sufficient employment become ineligible to teach without restarting a new degree.
Since 2010, NSW has lost almost 3,000 teachers from its books
For those who undertake a three-year ITE program (my own was a four-year program), this has a significant cost to the taxpayer, which is essentially wasted money.
Workforce management within education, particularly the training of new teachers is an undoubtedly complex and difficult task. Anna Patty wrote an article for The Sydney Morning Herald in 2014 indicating that the just under seven thousand teacher graduates in 2013 were fighting for a mere two thousand two hundred jobs, of which only a thousand were advertised. There were, I believe, around one hundred and thirty (ish) who graduated in my cohort. I am only aware of around six or seven who received permanent positions under the NSW Department of Education’s Targeted Recruitment Program, with the remainder fighting for casual work and temporary contracts, with a small number having gone overseas or put teaching on hold to raise a family.
“We need other measures of suitability to teaching to augment ATAR scores.”
– Stephen Dinham, The Conversation. Retrieved 13 February 2016
I agree with Stephen’s call for other measures of suitability, but what they are, how they are judged and how you can tell if someone at nineteen years of age will be a suitable teacher when they graduate at around twenty-three, is open to debate. I have heard calls for an interview process similar to what I understand is required for entry into Medicine undergraduate programs, but I know that if I had gone into one of those interviews in Year Twelve, I would have been deemed unsuitable, as I would likely have been very unsure of whether it was what I wanted to do, and I know of many teachers my age, who did enter university to become teachers straight out of high school, and completed the degree very casually, just looking a Pass mark.
Whilst I am not old enough to know much about the Teachers College indentured employment system which many of my senior colleagues went through, whereby they were guaranteed a permanent posting straight out of university, perhaps a similar program for those willing to be posted to rural and remote locations, or to take postings in areas other than where they had originally considered is an idea worth investigating.
Alternatively, one of my Professors during my ITE who was trained and began his teaching career in the UK told us of how a similar issue was managed over there. Apparently, and I would love to hear from someone who can provide more concrete details of how it worked out, the offered voluntary retirement packages to a large percentage of teachers who were close to retirement age, which freed up a large number of positions higher up the ladder, which allowed those wanted to do so to move further up the chain, freeing up a large number of permanent teaching positions on the bottom rung. There are some obvious potential pitfalls to this concept, not least the loss of corporate knowledge, however, it is an interesting concept.
This is a complex topic, and I welcome any constructive discussion around the issue.
“Teaching is an emotional practice: it activates, colors & expresses people’s feelings.” -Attributed to Andy Hargreaves
As you read this article, please consider what you believe to be normal or acceptable in regards to the amount of work done at home.
Last week was an incredibly topsy-turvy week, professionally, for me. I went from feeling overwhelmed and time-poor, to a day of ups and downs, to finishing off my teaching week with a Eureka moment for a student that brought a genuine smile to my face. I spent quite a significant amount of time thinking about this issue last week. As a young teacher and husband, I need to get the work-life balance issue sorted out in some fashion as I do not want to be struggling with this in the same way that I am currently when the family starts arriving (and no, that is not a pregnancy announcement).
The ever-helpful and patient Corrine Campbell (@corisel) reached out and we arranged to have an actual voice-to-voice conversation over the phone, where we would not be restricted to one hundred forty character thought-bites. I spent nearly an hour and a half speaking with Corinne, getting to know a bit more about each other, learning about each other’s journey through the work-life balance minefield, discussing strategies that Corinne either uses or knows people who use them to help manage work-life balance and find the corners that can be cut and the responsibilities that can be dropped without any adverse impacts, and it was useful, very useful.
We worked a few things out. Most of the time spent outside of school hours working on what I place in the school work box is only indirectly related to school insofar as it is part of my personal teaching identity and who I am and want to be as an open-source teacher; these blog articles, the FTPL videos, some research I am in the process of working on, reading for professional development, Twitter chats and TeachMeets are all things that take up a significant amount of time, which I am not required to do, that I am adding onto my plate willingly.
One of the strategies that Corinne mentioned was the setting of hard boundaries vis-a-vis when work stops and personal time begins. I find it very easy to spend a whole weekend in front of the computer as Mrs. C21st works Saturdays and every second Sunday (her weekend is Monday and Tuesday), and I often continue working when she arrives home. My new boundary is now 3 pm on Saturday when I know she finishes. This gives me an hour to switch off from work and to make sure than any housework I have not completed gets done. In addition to this, I am wiping Sunday from the roster and keeping it as a personal day. On those days when Mrs. C21st works, I will use it to get things done around the house, or just to unwind and relax, and on the Sundays that she has off, we will get to spend some time together and visiting friends.
It did feel a bit odd putting that into practice this weekend just gone, but I do feel better for it. I spent Sunday cycling between Star Wars: The Old Republic, FIFA16 and Star Wars: Battlefront, as well as getting housework done and dinner ready. Mrs. C21st and I went to a friends for dinner and a swim on Friday night, another no-work timeslot in the future.
I do still need to reduce the load, however. As there is no point reducing the time spent working if the workload is not also reduced. To that end, I will not be continuing the book review series for the time being. As much as it is useful for me professionally (and hopefully for some of my readers as well), I do not have the time to read in depth, make notes and then write an article each week. I do want to come to resent writing these articles, as I do find the process useful for reflection, however in order to prevent that, I need to cut something.
I will not be replacing it with anything, Tuesday’s will remain an empty slot. I will be maintaining the current schedule of an FTPL video on Monday afternoon, and then other articles Wednesday and Thursday, however that, from what I gather, is still significantly higher workload than some others in my PLN. That said, if there is somethign going on or that has happened then I will use the Tuesday slot.
I do still believe that we (teachers) need to engage in a dialogue about work-life balance and examine why it is considered normal or acceptable to work as much as what I know many teachers do, and I would appreciate your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.
“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Attributed to Mireille Guiliano
Work-life balance is an issue that we have been hearing more and more about over the last decade (see here and here), particularly with the now ubiquitous nature of smart phones and the resultant implications on the ability for you to check your work e-mail, do that report, respond to that request etc, anywhere. you can It is rather telling that there are now websites dedicated to providing tips about managing your work-life balance. It is a topic that often comes up amongst the education chats on Twitter (for example #teacherlife or #teacherwellbeing). Given the apparent teacher crisis, the media seems to change its mind every other day as to whether there is one or not, teacher work-life balance needs to be addressed as part of the larger discussion about the education sector.
The above drawing by Joel Alexander is very accurate and a now expected part of teaching. I arrive at school, most days, at around 7:15 each morning, and I am not the first one to arrive. I leave between 4:00 and 4:30 each afternoon, and am not the last to leave. During a conversation in the staffroom today I heard someone relate that when they were a Teaching-Principal, they were only allotted two hours a day to run the school. As a consequence this person indicated they arrived at school at 6:00 am and left at 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and then went in and worked from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm on Sundays to get ready for the week. That was the most extreme, but far from the only story relating similar horrid hours. This is not healthy. This is not good for the mental, physical, social or family life of the teacher, and this kind of overwork would certainly have a deleterious impact on the students.
How do we address this? How do we change this culture where it is expected that you are at school for around nine hours each day, and then spend another two to three hours at home working in the evening, as well as work on the weekends? I know that now that the football (soccer) season is over, I spend the weekend working on marking, lesson preparation, recording FTPL videos for colleagues, researching and planning for next year while Mrs C21st is at work (her weekend is Monday and Tuesday).
This weekend just gone Mrs C21st and I had some family and social events planned. A cousins twenty-first birthday (nineties themed, it was fantastic!) in Sydney on Saturday night, and then catching up with some friends on Sunday for brunch and then lunch. I was really excited about the cousins birthday as his parents are my Godparents, and I have always been close to them, and it was a good chance to catch up with them and some family at the same time. It was a great night, and I was not the only Woody from Toy Story, but I was definitely the best Woody. It was also the first time that Mrs C21st and I have done a couples-costume, with her going as Jesse. We left home at around 5.30 pm to get there on time and it was well after midnight when we got home.
A photo posted by Brendan Mitchell (@mremsclass) on
Sunday morning we had arranged to catch up with friend for brunch and spent a few hours there chatting with her and her husband and laughing at their daughters antics (she is right into magic at the moment). Now it was great catching up, but the friends is also a teacher and we all know what happens when two or more teachers get together. Lunch was with another couple and it was late afternoon before we left there, though it was fantastic to spend some time with them, especially as it was pouring rain all afternoon.
I enjoyed the weekend with friends and family, and felt tired but relaxed….and guilty. I spent Saturday before going to my cousin’s house working on a job application, before which I spent an hour involved in the #satchatoc Twitter chat, and so got nothing done for this week. When we got home on Sunday evening, I jumped straight back into working on the application. I failed to get an FTPL video done for this week, to get the next chapter of Invent to Learn read and a review article written, and I have a Stage Meeting tomorrow and I have not done the assigned reading for that.
I have noticed in the last few weeks with the bad weather that I have not been exercising as much as normal, and I know that has had a negative impact on my general health and motivation levels. I decided today, that even though I had things I needed to do, that it was more important for me to go and exercise, so I did. I feel better for it, I know I will sleep better tonight, but I still feel guilty for not getting things done for school.
I have essentially been told by many that it is the norm to put in the hours that I am, especially given that I am in the early stage of my career. This is not sustainable. Something will give. I cannot maintain sixty hours a week for another forty years…I do not think I can maintain it for another five years. I miss spending time with my friends and family. I miss just sitting on the couch with Mrs C21st and chatting about our day. I do not enjoy being folded up in my office chair for so long, but feel that I must in order to keep up with everything that needs doing.
All of that said, I will wake up tomorrow, and will be excited to be in the classroom, will be giving my classes the best learning that I am able to do, and will be happy to be doing it. I would very much love to hear from other teachers about how they deal with this issue. I am not sure if I am just too busy, if my time management skills are not up to par, if I am focusing on the wrong things or where my problem lies. But I need help paring things back to a manageable level.