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Looking back, what is the one thing that excited you most when you first started teaching? Most likely you weren’t thinking of the large class sizes you had to teach by yourself or all the unpaid work you had to do outside of school hours.
If I could make a guess, you became a teacher because you love the company of children and you genuinely care about making a difference in their lives. While teaching is passionate work, it is also a very hard job. The long hours and sub-par pay doesn’t make it attractive either.
It’s possible and quite normal for teachers to lose their passion for teaching somewhere along the way. As teachers, we don’t always have a full picture of what we’re going to embark on at the start of the school year. We don’t know what kind of needs our students will have, or how much extra support we’ll be expected to provide throughout the year - for both students and their parents.
A typical teaching day is estimated to be about 12-16 hours. First you have your standard 8 hour teaching day then you spend the additional hours coming in early to prepare your classroom, providing after school help to students, updating parents, attending staff meetings, grading student work, and planning lessons for the next day. An infographic called “Teachers Don’t Work Hard Enough? Think Again!”, created by BusyTeacher.org, reveals the truth about a teacher’s workload, suggesting that the real teaching day goes beyond class time. As a teacher myself, I will tell you that these numbers are accurate, and those extra hours aren’t paid for.
Now what’s an overworked teacher to do? What can you do to avoid the burnout of working too many unpaid hours while still fulfilling all your teaching duties and responsibilities?
Extra work always made its way into our homes because somehow we’ve accepted it as a norm early on in our teaching careers. We never really questioned it because we assumed it was part of the job. In our previous blog post, we talked about saying no to work when we’ve reached our full capacity and being an advocate for ourselves. If your overtime pay cannot be negotiated, negotiate for less work. No one else will draw the line between your school life and your home life. And while you value both, it boils down to how much you think you deserve.
Take stock of all the work that you do and check which ones you can do differently. Maybe there really is no one else who can share your workload, but as unbelievable as it may sound, there are ways you can work less but still get all of it under control.
Teachers can now have more time on their hands thanks to a good number of teaching apps that have been developed to make the non-teaching aspects of our job less stressful. You can have more time and energy once you identify the areas of your work that can be improved by taking advantage of technology available. Gain support from your school admin by sharing how these additions can benefit the teaching staff and overall school well-being.
You are consistently a shoulder to lean on for your students. Some days you provide that support system to parents as well. As much as you want to be emotionally available to everyone, you need to think about how this is affecting your own ability to recover from the day’s events. Prioritize conversations that are urgent and set a boundary for the rest. You may give older students, parents or colleagues a fixed time period outside school hours for talking about their concerns by email or a phone call. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable to excuse yourself from these situations, but the sooner we respect our own time and energy, the sooner other people will respect it too. Cultivate patience. Some things can wait even though it might not seem like it at the time.
Teaching is a wonderful profession. Nothing beats the sheer joy of watching our students succeed and knowing we had a part in it. We want to do our best for them. We believe they deserve the best. But as teachers, we deserve the best too, and the only way we can give them the best is if we advocate what’s best for us too.
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