While in elementary school and high school there were days where I stayed at home as a student because is was a Professional Activity/Development day (usually a Friday). Other days I got to sleep in because school started later in the morning due to Professional Learning Community (PLC) projects for teachers. As a teacher, there is no such thing as a late start morning or a Friday off. If anything, these days are mandatory for teachers to come together as the entire faculty -not just as departments- and discuss goals and challenges for the school year.
During my practicum this month, each Thursday is a PLC late start day. This means a portion of the morning schedule is dedicated for teachers to work on their PLC project and classes begin later in the morning. At my practicum school, the PLC topic is focused on teacher learning and how that may impact their leadership with students. The teachers are divided into groups that focus on a subtopic and each subtopic must have goals that are measurable and a method of inquiry to meet the goals.
Topics include Equity, Well-being for students, Well-being for teachers, Well-being for bridging interactions between students and teachers and Achievement. Being a part of the PLC groups shed light on to secondary issues that haven’t been discussed in class.
One topic that caught my attention, in particular, was teacher well-being. The issues brought up in the subgroup was marking load and that teachers are bringing their lesson planning and marking home with them. In any particular school day, teachers are constantly readjusting their lessons, working around field trips, absences, assemblies, you name it and on top of that running errands and organizing papers and grades for at least 100 students. The prep period that teachers have each day is maybe enough time to collect your photocopies, answer some emails and attend a meeting or two with the VP or a parent. Not to mention, the many responsibilities before and after school making sure students are supervised and behaving on school property. So where does that leave time for evaluating student work and putting together the next lesson?
I often hear about mental health and well-being in the context of student burn-out but on the flip-side teacher burn-out is an issue no one seems to address openly. Instead, people (non-teachers) often talk negatively about a teacher’s workload and “easiness” of their job. I think until you have been in a teaching position, the job isn’t just teaching the same material and giving out homework every day. Teachers need to feel human, especially if they want their students to be able to relate to them. Some ideas to support teacher well-being include: staff retreats, staff vs. students sports and provide little things like occasional breakfast/luncheon to get teachers through the day. At the end of the day, I believe a teacher’s well-being is partly determined by the appreciation and support the school shows for their teachers.
You can read my post on PA Days HERE.