Teachers and Workload

Teaching is a tough job, but we can make it harder than necessary. Hopefully your school is actively working to reduce your workload by reducing the amount of data drops and by reviewing its marking policies. However, even if you are stuck in a school with many data drops and onerous marking policies, you can work to reduce your own workload.

One way is to simply grade less! It sounds too good to be true, but it is. Grading student work is not a particularly valuable form of feedback. Instead, you can look into whole class marking. This will drastically cut down the time you spend grading, and, as an added bonus you will be giving actionable feedback to your students.

If you are saying you cannot do this because your school’s policy, you likely still have work arounds. Grade formative assessments on completion. Have more in class assignments. If you have book scrutinies and every student needs to have correct answers, don’t include your harder more summative assessments in it. Instead, choose easy ones that will look good to your school so you can get the paperwork done quickly and spend more time focusing on what matters.

If the school policies and enforcement are so strict that these work arounds will not work, I’d suggest looking for another job elsewhere. It is not worth the stress.

Another way to reduce your workload is to set a firm leaving time. I will leave work at X o’clock and be home for dinner. Setting this as a firm personal deadline can be immensely powerful. It will also help you realize that the work can wait, it will be there tomorrow. And generally, even if it doesn’t get done, you and your students will be ok.

Teaching is a profoundly important job. We change students’ lives. And we should celebrate that. However, it is important that we do not burn ourselves out in our drive to be good teachers and help students succeed. Remember, if we quit teaching, we will no longer have the same impact. Find ways to reduce your workload to increase your sanity.

Drop Dead, Data Drops

When you have three data drops a semester, the term is always ending. Data drops are always painful without fail because of the sheer amount of work they require. At the end of each section, we need to enter the students’ daily grades and section test scores into the school system.

Grading the tests takes the equivalent of a full workday. Then, entering all the grades into the school’s system takes another hour or so. This is all done while teaching a normal load, meaning the time is split over the course of the week and or the work is taken home. All the teachers become stressed during this time, and often fight through small colds that crop up from overwork. And then, just as teachers are recovering and getting into the swing of things again, they need to prepare for the next data drop, because the term is always ending.

However, this is arguably not the biggest problem. I would argue that the primary problem is that it takes away from student learning. As the grading sections are all less than two months, we design the rhythms of the curriculum around the testing schedule instead of designing around the content. Also, with such short grading terms, student grades suffer. If they did not understand the content in one or two weeks, they do not have enough time to improve their grade, because the term is always ending.

Another negative to this is that the testing schedule discourages good teaching practice. Teachers are unable to stretch students with various research and application projects because by the time the content has been covered and students are prepared to apply/research on their own, they need to prepare for the next test because the term is always ending.

I firmly believe that fewer data drops will lead to more useful data, happier teachers, and better-educated students. However, it takes time to change a system. But, I can’t simply sit by and quietly go about my work because it’s not helpful for my students. I need to work to change my school’s system for me and my students’ good. I want the data drops to drop dead, not me.

The Plan

  1. Talk with other teachers
  2. Talk with the headteacher
  3. Organize a plan (including research)
  4. Talk with administration (Principal & Dean)
    • Get their rationale for the current system
    • Communicate teacher concerns
    • Propose alternate plan
  5. Hope for the best
    • Work to continue the dialogue