Heading into a new school year, it’s hard to forget the toll the last one took on teachers.
Eighty-five percent of K-12 educators surveyed during the 2022-23 school year said they were considering a job change, and nearly half pointed to outsized responsibilities and workloads as the reason, according to a nationally representative Education Week Research Center survey of approximately 1,200 K-12 educators. More than 4 in 10 teachers in that survey said their teaching and professional growth suffered because of the state of their mental health.
These sobering statistics bear exploring. And there’s no better time to do it than before teachers find themselves deep into yet another school year.
So we reached out to teachers on social media and asked: If you could take one thing off your plate this school year, what would it be?
Perhaps not surprising, the responses we received centered largely on non-teaching responsibilities. We received many duplicates; for instance, “lunch duty” clearly stands out as a sore spot among teachers.
Here’s a breakdown of responsibilities that, in an ideal world, teachers would like to relinquish this upcoming school year:
“Lesson plans that have to be submitted, simply to be on file. Takes nearly all of my time! Do you want me wasting time writing lesson plans or actually teaching?!?!”
Lunch and recess duty
“Lunch duty! We have it for 1 hour and 5 minutes!! On those days, we have no planning, no lunch, and no bathroom break!!”
“Grades. Let’s. Just. Learn. Let’s play, let’s experiment. Forget the pressure of an arbitrary evaluation system that most times doesn’t reflect the mastery of the subject until many weeks after the units are completed.”
“If we could just focus on spending more time teaching our kids and less time on tests not even made by people who understand education we could make more of an impact. Genuinely get to the heart of teaching.”
“Useless PD that some legislators thought was great.”
Managing disruptive behaviors
“Dealing with behaviors that are beyond the control of the classroom. Have others take accountability for those behaviors so I can teach the other 24 kids and make sure they have a good day.”
“Useless meetings—meetings for the sake of meeting.”
What’s the solution?
Simply willing away these less-than-desired aspects of the teaching profession won’t make them disappear. But, as previously reported, administrators’ willingness to consider practical ways to support teachers and re-allocate responsibilities could go a long way to starting the new school year off strong for educators.
Donna Christy, a school psychologist and the president of the Prince George’s County Educators Association in Maryland, suggested that administrators ask themselves: “What’s a must versus a want in terms of what you’re asking educators to do?”
“What’s burying [teachers] is all this work that they shouldn’t have to do—just let them teach,” Christy said. “And everybody outside of the classroom should be thinking, ‘What can I do to support what’s going on within those four walls of the classroom?’ ”