Today in my inbox, I see yet another article relating to teacher workload. That’s in addition to two similar emails last week and many in the last month or so. I can’t believe how much the teaching community goes on about it. It’s like the British talking about the weather – the default conversation.
Whilst I initially understood the position of those I heard complaining about their workload in secondary schools, increasingly I began to ask the genuine question ‘so what do you fill your time with?’. People’s responses include a number of things like meetings and marking, but the big one seems to be ‘preparing for lessons’.
This is where I become unpopular – sorry but I just don’t get it.
I came from industry into teaching a few years back. Previously I founded and ran a small business for 10 years, requiring prioritisation of tasks and making systems/processes efficient whilst delivering content to adults (rather than children). I did this without the need for therapy or pills because I was efficient – a skill that I brought into teaching and which enables me to feel totally balanced as a teacher today.
Yet those who complain seem to have one common trait – inefficiency.
I tell them about my digital library of class resources and homeworks and they look at me like I’m from Mars. I tell them about my use of peer marking of homework (which has many benefits by the way) or that I share resources with colleagues through network and cloud drives and they think I’m from a sci-fi movie. Therein lies the problem – a national if not global epidemic of duplication both personally and departmentally.
But the great news is that it isn’t hard to fix – school leaders need to teach efficiency to their staff. That’s it. Yes we must tweak lessons to tailor to the needs of students and yes we adapt what has gone before in response to previous knowledge and curriculum changes, but apart from that, we should reuse and recycle the best of lessons we’ve delivered successfully already.
So my suggestion is that in the first years of teaching, ask your colleagues what resources exist already rather than creating from scratch. Then week by week, store materials electronically and methodically in an accessible system, then as tasks, worksheets, slides or homeworks are refined year on year, share them with peers and especially those coming into the profession below. This will not only relieve hours of preparation contributing to ‘teacher workload’ issues, but will likely increase the consistency and quality of teaching in school as well! Businesses have learned this lesson because if they didn’t, they’d cease to be in business! Teachers (many who sadly haven’t worked in industry) need to go through the same realisation – inefficient means unsustainable.
So my workload worries are not related to my workload, they are worries that other teachers are making a rod for their own back through inefficiency which will cause many to leave the profession, and ultimately deter new people from joining it.