The end of anything, the school year or holidays, is a time for reflection. During the recent school holidays, I was sitting next to a group of young teachers as they reflected on the previous semester. A particular girl, in her fifth year of teaching, was making the most noise. You didn’t have to eaves drop to hear every word.
She had received a Facebook message that had really upset and annoyed her. One of her, previously, close relatives had posted a message bemoaning the hours teachers work, their long holidays, and more. I recognized the conversation, as I had had quite a few of them myself over the years. Mostly, my colleagues shrugged their shoulders and 'walked away' from such complaints. For me, in my early years, they were like a red rag to a bull. I knew how many hours I was putting in, and I knew how I sweated over getting the content and delivery just right for every student in my classes.
By way of example, one census I was involved in recorded my hours of school-linked work as 68 hours per week. Admittedly, I was in a very demanding job as Head of Department and IT Administrator/Manager, but I was still seen as a teacher, and receiving a teachers wage. That year, despite being requested to participate, I politely refused to go on an overnight camp , and dropped out of coaching sporting teams.
I was very tempted to slide into the vacant seat at the teacher's table. What I wanted to tell them was to look at the facts, and then post them on Facebook. The facts would have been something like this:
- ,If I have 24 students in a class and a lesson lasts for 60 minutes, then after you deduct 20 minutes for introduction and conclusion there are 40 minutes of actual teaching time left;
- Of that 40 minutes, if I spend 20 minutes on teaching, reinforcing the focus of the lesson, then I have 20 minutes to work individually with students;
- This means that I could work with nearly all students for 1 minute in 1-1 discussions, or
- I could work with 4 groups of 6 students for 5 minutes per group, or
- I could work with 6 groups of 4 students for a little more than 3 minutes per group.
I would probably want this beginning teacher to add something about fairness, justice and equality on Facebook but not many teachers are willing to go that far.
- Fairness because parents can expect teachers to work to their individual expectations; this is unrealistic given the complicated nature of today's society.
- Justice because 'it is all about the children' and they are OK with that, but their working conditions are quite harsh; paperwork is always increasing, documentation is onerous - and the professionalism of the individual is discounted.
- Equality because, as everyone has been to school, it is often forgotten that some teachers have PHDs, a larger number have Masters degrees and everyone has completed at least a four successful years at university.
Trying to accommodate modern parents and students in last classroom and teaching models envisioned, at best, late last century just doesn’t deliver the goods anymore; especially, when most teachers value the benefits of using multiple intelligence principles, design thinking, lateral thinking, individual decision making and entrepreneurial thinking to assist learning.