Speaking to us as faculty, a former CEO once cited a study that inferred that in the pecking order of most stressful jobs, teaching ranks second after flight controlling.
This, according to the said study, is hugely attributed to the sheer number of decisions a teacher makes in a day and the tremendous attention to detail in light of the variables involved.
Another study found out that teachers are working harder than ever and more than any other professional. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Oxford Review of Education, and authored by researchers from the University College London, collected information on what school teachers do at work, the skills they apply and how they work.
It also analysed work intensity, as well as other additional factors such as the control staff, have over their work and training. The proportion of teachers who say their job demands a very high level of input was nine in 10, which represents an increase of two-thirds (90 per cent versus 54 per cent) over 25 years, according to the findings taken in 2017 and based on more than 800 teachers in British schools.
Work very hard
This compares with just 44 per cent of people in all other occupations who agree they have to work very hard. Only health and social services managers and legal professionals come close to the levels of work intensity faced by teachers according to this study.
The data reveal for the first time how this drop in job quality goes beyond just pay and hours. Training, the influence teachers have over their tasks, and work-related well-being have also declined.
An increasing percentage of teachers say they often or always come home from work exhausted (72 per cent in 1997 versus 85 per cent in 2017) which, again, is higher than any other professional over the same period (44 per cent versus 45 per cent).
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the study not only found teachers are having to work extremely hard physically and mentally, but also increasingly at very high speed (16 per cent in 1992 versus 58 per cent in 2017). Overall, those in Scotland reported the lowest work intensity anywhere in Britain.
Such cases of work overload for teachers in Kenya are mostly common among primary school teachers and few high school ones. This is largely informed by humongous class sizes and overloaded time tables.
Majority of teachers complain of teaching many lessons per day/weekend, and the marking and processing of exams as a tedious exercise. This could be attributed to over enrolment, and, on the other hand, understaffing. In terms of subject sharing, some teachers even teach more than four subjects (all subjects taught in primary school) hence no subject specialisation.
Teachers are also assigned different responsibilities apart from the normal classwork, extra-curricular activities like sports. Majority of them, to a greater extent, co-operated in the discipline of the pupils. Reforms are needed to address this sticky issue, which is a potent factor in declining teacher retention rates and quality of teaching. Curriculum framers and designers, and most importantly the teachers themselves, ought to design strategies that will aid the instructor in the classroom.
Strategies that promote/enhance/encourage close teacher-learner relationships, where a teacher will be there for the learner, support the learner, maintain the teachers required work output, but also these same strategies will not drain the teacher and overload/overwork them. Any improvement on how this can be achieved in the school environment will be beneficial, not only for teachers, but also for schools and the pupils who depend so much on the quality of teaching.
Think of it this way; in a skill-based curriculum such as Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), if you as a teacher find yourself so exhausted at the end of a single lesson, then you aren’t doing it right. You are assuming the roles and responsibilities of the player, yet you are a coach. And the place of the coach is at the touch line, giving instructions. Not running and shooting the ball.
The most striking aspect of job quality is teachers’ high work intensity. Compared with other professionals and all other occupations, teachers work more intensively and even beyond work hours, and this continues to rise to unprecedented levels, considering factors such as free primary school education, the recent 100 per cent transition from primary to high school, and shortage of teachers in specific subjects especially sciences. So, which strategies can teachers apply in the classroom setting to battle the work load?
Traditionally, most of the work in the classroom has always been done by the teacher. But new best practices are putting an end to this. Yes, teachers plan the lessons, deliver the lessons and assess the students. But the era of students passively listening to the lecture, or watching a demonstration, or taking notes, or completing a worksheet, or taking a test is gone.
The real work in search of knowledge lies with the student. The teacher inspires and facilitates. Teachers ought to stop seeing their jobs as making students learn — by any means necessary. The teacher of yesterday dictated learning because they truly believed it was their role. And at that time it was. The said teachers held on to the belief that learning wouldn’t be effective if they didn’t control each and every aspect of the teaching/learning process.
If they did not dominate the classroom. While this might have been true then, it overloaded the teacher. The modern teacher ‘dominates’ the classroom not with fear and an iron first, but with high charisma and passion and verve and creativity.
And whilst this kind of teaching is entertaining and even inspiring, the real test is in placing adequate demand in terms of thinking on the student. My high school English/Literature teacher, one Ms Lucy Okallo, used to call it putting-on-your-thinking-cap.
Make learners put on their thinking caps! Failure to do this and the teacher inadvertently takes over the learning process, doing the lions’ share of the work. But the teacher can change this, by utilising the latest instructional techniques/pedagogy underpinning the inquiry philosophy. They ought to work smarter and not just harder.
Delegate, Share, Empower
These are classic ‘save yourself time’ strategies for teachers. If not done well, they can end up costing them more time than they save; even done less intelligently there can be an implementation dip. But get them right and stick with them, and others can grow alongside you as a teacher.
By delegating the right tasks to the right people, teachers can save time and increase the capacity of students. Delegate the creation of study cards, the creation and ongoing updating of a ‘homework’ folder for students that miss class, spread the burden–and opportunity–of the day-to-day operation of your classroom.
You can share, too. Share lessons with other teachers. Share data — or share the administrating of data-giving or mini-assessments. Share the work of proactively calling home to parents by rotating with other teachers on your team or in your department. You catch the drift?
Empowering those around you can make for smarter teaching, too. This is a lot like ‘delegating,’ but with more freedom. Instead of delegating a specific task, you can empower a student with autonomy for a specific purpose so that they can identify necessary tasks, then complete them and revise needs accordingly. Oversight is necessary but by delegating, your workload as a teacher is reduced. And that’s smart.
Power of learning models
Learning models are powerful strategies for innovation in education–and a way to work smarter, not just harder as a teacher. A learning model is really just an approach for learning–a pattern or sequence or set of strategies and values designed to promote learning. Each usually has a certain shtick — a problem it addresses or a benefit it seeks to provide.
The flipped classroom, for example, is a model that simply ‘flips’ the kinds of work students do at home and what they do at school. The more you’re aware of emerging trends and models, the more you can bring bits and pieces into your classroom for practice, or even adapting new frameworks outright to further reduce your workload as a teacher.
Don’t grade everything
And even what you do grade, consider only grading the work smarter for specific items that are most likely to benefit that student for the skill that they need the most.
Teachers should deploy time-saving techniques that manage the grading load. Read student work purposefully, not comprehensively. Assign a grade or provide formative assessment — and look within the text for what it is you need to read to do your job. Do not read every student submission like it’s a Dickens novel. Give prompt, pointed feedback and everyone is happy!