Slice Of Life Story Challenge Day 30 - Teacher Workload

This slice is dedicated to all my hard working colleagues in classrooms. It's the end of Term 1 in Victorian schools today, and a break is richly deserved. They continue to work tirelessly despite the fact that the state government has removed $346 million from the education budget. So, here's to teachers!

When children make a demonstrable breakthrough in their learning or understanding after weeks of careful modelling by the teacher, it makes teaching so worthwhile. When they read with confidence or gain power over an aspect of their writing, special moments occur. When a student takes responsibility for an aspect of their learning, the teacher rejoices in this significant event. It is time to celebrate. Feedback to the student is usually immediate and sincere.

I am saying these things because teaching is not always like this. At times teaching can be extremely stressful and demanding. There are times throughout this year when demands of the workday erode much of the gloss of teaching’s finer moments.

A typical day can serve up an early start following a night of work preparation. An unscheduled before school meeting with fellow staff might find the time for class preparation instantly vanishing. You The teacher arrives at the classroom to organise for the day ahead, only to find several parents need to talk about student issues that have come to light. These informal meetings, important or otherwise, take up precious time. Teachers don’t have the luxury of deciding what is important. Each person is given time.  The bell rings and the children line up and already the teacher is feeling a little unsettled because planning has not been implemented as intended. A child enters the classroom crying and needs immediate re-assurance before the class can be attended to and guided through the morning lessons.

For the next two hours the teacher is moving about the class, assisting, supporting, correcting, observing how children interact and a myriad other things and the entire time the mind of said teacher is in overdrive, thinking ahead to the next minute, the next session.  They may be thinking about how much easier it would be if they had a larger classroom and fewer students. All through the session the teacher scans the classroom to ensure that every child’s needs are being met,- who needs assistance, support?

A child feels sick and needs to be sent to the sickbay. They then prove how queasy they feel by vomiting on the carpet.

It is said that on an average day a teacher may be involved in approximately 3000 social interactions of varying length and intensity. It is hardly surprising that they value the recess break when it comes. The teacher’s day is ruled by the ringing of bells. They even have to time their toilet breaks to fit in with these times.

Recess breaks may also be used to conduct the business of the day because for many it may be the only contact with their colleagues in an otherwise crowded day. The harried educator finally get to sit down and relax for a few minutes and a phone call from a parent comes through, or someone is at the office and needs to speak to you immediately.  A discussion might then ensue about a curriculum issue. Lessons resume and several interruptions occur; each interruption dealing with whole school matters.

The teacher might suddenly realize that they have school yard duty during the lunch break.  Unfortunately, the playground is alive with the usual tensions. An endless stream of students, implore the haunted educator to mediate in their problems. “Someone is following me and keeps staring at me’ might represent the popular statement of the day. With all this relationship counselling, the teacher concerned may not have time to enjoy the fact that the sun is actually shining. The teacher considers this particular stint of playground duty reasonable because no child swore at them or ignored a reasonable request for co-operation. This is a plus!

Then it might be time to think about some lunch, but not before organizing some work for the afternoon session. By now the teacher might have a clear 15 minutes to eat your lunch and get ready for the afternoon session.

At the end of the day, this emptied educator works hard to encourage the class to take responsibility for packing away classroom resources and leaving the classroom in a reasonably tidy state and ensure that all those who require notices do in fact have them. The next task is to make sure the notices go into school bags.

After dismissing the class, the teacher speaks to a number of parents who have concerns about the upcoming excursion, a possible bullying incident, and a student who has lost a book. All these matters will require a follow up tomorrow, so they are noted the diary.  A final tidying up of the classroom takes place, before this tired teacher rushes off to the staffroom to attend a welfare meeting at which the most suitable course of action to assist two students with special needs is discussed in detail. The meeting concludes at 5.30 p.m. Where upon, the teacher races back to the classroom, and hurriedly does some organising for the next day. Walking out the door he or she collects some children’s work to take home and assess for mid year reporting which needs to be collected as an ongoing task. The teacher drives home thinking, -today was a typical day, really.

 To survive as a teacher requires the skills of a juggler because one is constantly keeping numerous things moving simultaneously throughout the course of the school day. Teachers rarely get the luxury of focusing on one thing at a time. Maybe that’s why they look forward to the term breaks so much. They’re mentally and emotionally spent.

I once recall a parent telling me, ‘I have trouble controlling one child, I can’t imagine how you can control a whole class!’

To my hard working colleagues, I say –enjoy the next two weeks. It’s been a fast and furious first term. Recharge, relax and reload. See you in term 2 with fresh enthusiasm for the next charge!


  1. Alan, I got tired reading this! You captured it all. This week has been a very tiring one for me. I only wish parents had an idea of what it is like so that when things don't go the way they want, they would take it a little easy on the teacher. I would love all incoming student's parents to have to spend a full day with their child's teacher. I think it would clear up so many misconceptions.

  2. You so well describe the side of our job that goes unnoticed. I wish all Australian teachers relaxing and enjoyable break.

  3. The life and times of a teacher have a universal theme! Even though you were writing about your colleagues in Aussie, I can picture the same things happening to the teachers with whom I work! Our spring break is coming in another week. It is also much needed and well-deserved!


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