Teaching – Why I Don’t Give Up

Last Sunday I wrote a post about the stress of teaching, and how it was affecting me. It received some interesting responses, both in the comments and on Twitter. The Twitter consensus seemed to be that most teachers feel that way at times. There are moments when the stress builds, it all becomes too much and the smallest thing will break you.

But this tweet made me think:

I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of teachers. We often hear about teachers burning out and the high attrition rate, especially in the first few years of teaching. The stress and workload demands drive many from the profession.

But even though I DO feel stressed and have days like lasts Friday where it all just seems too much, I’m not seriously entertaining the idea of leaving.

This is why I stay:

1. Teaching is Rewarding

I love that moment when a child’s eye’s light up because they’ve learned something – the excitement and appreciation that they show. Learning is a joyful experience and it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of a student’s journey. I also find that I am continually learning. Even after 20 years, I’m still being challenged and inspired to find new ways of doing things. It’s never boring.

2. Teaching allows me to be creative and to vary my days

No two days are ever the same, and as a primary school teacher, I get to teach all the subjects. I teach art, music, HSIE, mathematics, writing, public speaking, dance, drama. I am a person who craves variety and primary school teaching allows me plenty of that. The process of designing units of work and planning lessons is also highly creative and I enjoy coming up with new and engaging ways to teach. I enjoy the challenge of having students with special behaviour or learning needs. I like to think outside the box and find the key to reaching students for whom traditional teaching approaches don’t seem to work.

3. I love my students

I am blessed to work at a school with a very positive culture. The students from K-6 enjoy coming to school and most greet me enthusiastically whenever they see me either in class or in the playground. They are keen to learn and appreciative of our efforts. They are nice kids and working with them is a joyful experience.

3. I have great colleagues

I am also blessed to work with a team of very committed and enthusiastic educators. There is none of the cynicism that abounds in some workplaces. My colleagues care about their work and, like me, are continually learning. We support each other through collaborative planning and teamwork and share the load. We recognise that not everyone has strengths in every area and help each other out. A teacher who is talented in music will take that subject for another teacher, who in turn might teach PE for a teacher who has difficulty in that area. When people are sick, run down or going through difficult times, my colleagues are quick to help out, shouldering some of their responsibilities at time until that person is able to cope once again.

4. I have a great principal

The principal I work for is committed to making good educational decisions. She is not swayed by political interests, or the pressure to produce higher and higher results in standardised tests. Instead, she allows the specific learning needs of our students to determine our directions for school improvement. She listens to staff and consults with us. She acknowledges our hard work. If there is a period of time where I am overloaded, as I have been lately, she will find ways to release me from face to face teaching so that I can catch up, and will be flexible with deadlines wherever possible.

I realise that I am lucky. Not all schools have this positive culture. In fact, this article by Dan Haesler explains that many new teachers leave the profession because of the lack of support from their colleagues.

I am fortunate because, even when I feel stressed and demoralised, I work in a supportive environment. That’s what keeps me going.

It’s the culture of the school that makes the difference.


Managing Teacher Workload 2: Find the Time Wasters

File:Busy desk red.svg

Busy Red Desk image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Managing the  volume of work that I have to do as a primary school assistant principal is a daunting task which I am still coming to terms with. This is the second post in my series about managing workload in which I share some of the strategies that have worked for me.

In my last post, I described a workload audit. This allowed me to identify several time wasters which fit into 3 categories – those where the outcome did not justify the amount of time put into them,  those that could reasonably be delegated, and those that took a long time and needed a new, more efficient approach.

Here are some of them:

1. Activities where the outcome did not justify the amount of time put into them

  • Preparation and marking of homework
  • Preparation of amazing interactive IWB lessons which would only be used on one occasion
  • Certain types of marking
  • Certain meetings

2. Activities that could reasonably be delegated.

  • Laminating and cutting out classroom games and activities
  • Covering books
  • Photocopying
  • Leading certain curriculum areas

3.  Activities that needed a more efficient approach

  • dealing with the mountain of paperwork
  • dealing with email
  • supervision of classroom teaching programs
  • meetings and communicating with colleagues

Categorising the activities was important as I could quickly determine the approach needed to reduce their impact and increase my efficiency. I’m happy to report that after working at it for a few years, I’ve managed to reduce the time each of these tasks take, and in some cases have eliminated them from my workload. I’ll be dealing with each of them in future posts starting with that constant thorn in my side: homework.

What are the time wasters in your job? Have you had any success in reducing their impact? I’d love to hear your thoughts.