Within various careers and professions the world over, work-life balance is a much debated and researched topic. Nowhere is the debate more impassioned than within the teaching community – excessive workload is often cited as the primary cause behind the current recruitment crisis in the UK.
And I can believe it.
As a primary teacher, excessive workload and demands/expectations from inexperienced, nervous and stressed-out school leaders very nearly drove me out of education altogether.
Fortunately, I decided to try a move up to secondary as a last-ditch effort to see if teaching was for me and I’m delighted to say that I’ve made a happy home, taking on a unique role within this new setting… at least for now. Worryingly though, thanks to the most recent frenzy of government meddling, I am already beginning to see the kind of changes, strategies, software and paperwork that were so unworthy, yet time consuming, in my previous setting.
My main issues with current teaching workload is that not only is there too much of it, but a lot of it is just unworthy of our time – We’re asked to do more and more things that require maximum effort but have low impact on learning; in fact, often they have a negative impact on the young people we’re actually trying to help. There’s nothing to make you feel quite as unfulfilled as repeatedly having to spend hours of your free time working on things that you know will actually harm the children in your care – after a while, you start to lose respect for yourself.
No one signs up to teaching expecting it to be easy – I knew I was going to war when I signed up. My mum was a teacher and had prepared me for battle, but I had hoped that the war would only last a year or two. I didn’t realise that it was going to be a permanent state; I didn’t realise how many good soldiers we would lose along the way; I didn’t realise that the enemy would be supposedly on our side. Something has to change.
Sadly, much of these issues are out of my control. What is in my control though, is how I approach day-to-day teaching; what I choose to focus on through in lesson time and remember later on; how, when and with what attitude I approach my workload on an evening; the amount of effort I put into paper ‘evidence’ tasks as opposed to meaningful work for my students; My refusal to let school deadlines take priority over my relationships or my physical and mental health.
If you’re interested in reading about work-life balance, delve into the relevant category for more thoughts, ideas and tips. I can’t promise that you won’t get the occasional moan or rant, but I assure you that there will be a massive helping of sunny positivity alongside it.