Teacher Crisis: Overworking

I polled a large Facebook group of just under 13,000 language teachers and another group of 2,100 Latin teachers on how often they work beyond the school day.

FB group of 13,000 language teachers
FB group of 2,100 Latin teachers

Houston, we have a problem, and I have questions.

First, though, the similarity between the two polls is striking, right? Did some Latin teachers also vote in the larger group? Absolutely, but surely not all 137. That means there’s a minimum of 470 unique responses, and probably more like 550+. This suggests that the crisis isn’t language-specific. Here are the facts:

  • 0 teachers have done their job only during their job’s work day (and not beyond).
  • 88%-91% of teachers do their job while not at their job.
  • 4x as many teachers do extra work at their job just once a week than those who do so twice a week.
  • 59%-63% of teachers have a consistent habit of overworking.

Now, my questions:

  • How many of the 88%-91% of teachers need to be overworking because of workplace pressures and unreasonable expectations? What can we do about that?
  • How many teachers are in a position to change their practices such that they no longer work while not at work? How many of them don’t know that’s possible?
  • What did the 9%-12% of teachers who used to overwork eventually figure out, learn, or experience? What caused a change to their practices? What can other teachers learn from them?

A Note On Super Teachers
I don’t recommend being one of these. A super teacher not only puts in extra time, they love doing it. This isn’t a problem on its own, but the messages being sent contribute to the collective understanding that teachers stay late, bring their work home, plan on Sundays, and do unpaid labor, in general. I’m not saying that super teachers give the profession a bad rep, but…

Either way, current societal expectations are so pervasive that future educators just assume that overworking is part of the job. Anyone with a teacher parent, especially an ELA one brining home piles of papers to read (and sadly, grade), probably assumes overworking is the default. What’s worse is when the TOYs (Teacher Of the Year) handed out at the building, district, state, regional, and national level go to super teachers who are literally recognized for overworking. That’s toxic, and unsustainable for most teachers—and it should be. It’s rare to hear of teachers being recognized for things like “consistently takes attendance, arrives on time most days, is mostly prepared for class, engages 80% of students at any given time, disappears for their 26.5 minute lunch break, submits grades/comments by due dates, uploads some eval evidence, has one homerun awesome class for every four to five decent ones, etc.” You know, realistic goals that actually do a LOT for teaching and learning, but are somehow seen as “less” when compared to the school mascot super teacher on seven committees coaching two sports running three clubs staying late each day and planning their class slides on Sundays. It really is a bad message.

The School To School To School Problem
I’ve had 18 different jobs besides teaching, and currently work as an archery coach and instructor trainer. That’s 20 different kinds of work experiences. There are people who have had one. When that one work experience is teaching, and there’s an expectation to treat the profession more like a vocation and act unprofessionally (i.e., work waaaay beyond working hours), that’s an unsustainable problem. I polled the same groups to get a sense of work experience outside of teaching:

Once again, the similarity between the two groups is clear. 19% of teachers don’t know work besides teaching, and between 55% and 62% went straight into teaching after school. My questions:

  • Can we draw a direct line between the 59%-63% of teachers reporting that they’re always overworking and the 55%-62% who had some kind of work experience as a student (part-time, under the table, lump sum, clock-in/out, gigs, etc.?)—or no other work experience at all?
  • How many teachers are in union states (#prounion), and/or have ever worked union jobs before overworking as much as reported?
  • How many of the 36%-44% of teachers with other work experience (or careers) beyond school are now working outside of contractual hours? How many of them also overworked in their other jobs?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.