Everyone in every job in every country at some point thinks, ‘I hate my job’. It’s one of the challenges with full-time work – but, when you are overworked, overstressed and falling behind, those four little words can begin to creep into your everyday vernacular.
This is certainly beginning to apply to teachers as job satisfaction levels reach record lows.
A 2012 MetLife Survey of Teachers found teacher job satisfaction declined from 62 percent of teachers feeling ‘very satisfied’ in 2008 to 39 percent by 2012. The survey also showed 51 percent of US teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week. But the trend does not stop there.
A recent survey by the Guardian Teaching Network found, by large, teachers in the UK feel overworked and undervalued, with 82 percent saying their workload is unmanageable and only four in 10 saying they are happy with their job.
And, in Australia, teachers work harder than their colleagues across the world. On average, Australian primary school teachers have 871 face-to-face hours with students annually compared to the world average of 782 hours per year.
This is leading to a decline in not only the amount of students enrolling in teacher courses, but it has been reported close to 50 percent of those who graduate as teachers leave the profession in the first five years.
When you actually crunch all these numbers, add the stress and overtime, these factors are major contributors to a loss of morale in teachers. And the biggest question that remains is: how do you win back that lost morale?
In Australia, the Grattan Institute put out the report, ‘Making time for great teaching’, which found teachers need to cut back on things that don’t directly improve teaching and learning. The report showed, when teachers were more efficient by cutting back on unnecessary tasks, they could spend more time doing what they loved – teaching.
This research is also in step with the UK Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who recently explained, “Teachers should spend more of their working week in the classroom rather than carrying out pointless administration tasks.”
“More should be done to tackle the issue of ‘unnecessary workload’ faced by teachers to give them more time with children.”
One of the ways teachers can take charge of their workload is to cut down on irrelevant or outdated processes and even start school initiatives for assisting the entire teaching workforce.
First, find out which aspects of classroom time you can control. In some schools, teachers find they can reduce the time it takes to schedule lessons, grade papers and plan extracurricular activities by using digital tools to better organise calendars and paperwork.
The key is to find simple solutions for eliminating menial work like printing paper, or brush up on some time management skills by really looking at where your time is going during the day. And, if any of these methods work, it is a great opportunity to share your time-saving methods with the rest of the teaching team to hopefully adopt a school-wide approach to lessen the workload.
Rich McKinney, PhD, an award winning assistant principal in the US, explains how taking the initiative helps empower teachers and leads to better teaching and student learning outcomes. He says, “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”
“Students need teachers are who are highly competent role models, whose talents and expertise are leveraged both inside and outside of the classroom, and when possible, away from school in the community. When students recognize their teachers are leaders, their natural response will be to follow. School morale can only improve in this type of environment.”
There may be a loss of morale but it does not spell destruction for the teaching industry. Instead, it is an opportunity to take back control and get back to the real reason you became a teacher – to teach.