Much hay has been made over the recent "Ofsted does not..." document, which outlines the various things Ofsted has now acknowledged teachers are probably having to do just to prepare for Ofsted.
The Education Secretary was quick to point out that this should reduce teacher workload. Good. She, too, acknowledges the problem.
The National Union of Teachers have known about the problem all along, and they are claiming a victory in our ongoing negotiatons with government. Rightfully so, as well. In fact the very existence of this new bit of guidance is for me the single most tangible piece of evidence of our success since the former Education Secretary was...um... moved on to other challenges.
I have this lingering, uncertain doubt, though, that teacher workload won't change a whole lot. Sure, we'll (hopefully) stop doing things just to have them ready when the inspectors do come. But will the hours go down?
There are two reasons for this, as far as I'm concerned.
1) We are gluttons for punishment (and that suits The System just fine).
2) we don't have much of a choice.
Gluttons for punishment. We can nearly take that as a given.
But it doesn't need to be this way, does it?
I work with some incredibly talented, able, excellent people who just don't know when to say enough is enough. In an insatiable drive to prove that they are worthy in a job that so often makes you feel the opposite, they say "yes" to every request. The link their work email to their personal mobile devices. They live and die by observation grades, and almost literally become teacher-martyrs.
Linking pay to "performance" only exacerbates the problem (of course) because now our feelings of "not good enough" will translate directly into what's in our bank accounts, whether we can afford a mortgage, and whether we'll even have enough food at the end of the month.
I don't even know if there is a way out of this. Is there? Maybe, the way is to simply reclaim the number of hours we would have given to the Ofsted "to-do" list before. Skip the stuff that has no impact on learning whatsoever and go out for a burger? Not every day or even every week, but just once in a while.
Honestly I don't see it happening. There's always going to be one. One teacher who marks book like they're Jane Austen and plans lessons like they're rewriting Shakespeare's First Folio. The one who you've never ever seen out of the school building, not even in the parking lot, because they feel the need to work from 6:45 until... I don't know when. Sometime later than the shool probably closes. This teacher might in fact live in the building. You've never heard them talk about home.
Okay, so that [little bit of hyperbole? -ed.] leads me into the not-much-choice part of my claim.
Just by acknowledging that I don't, in fact, live in a school and mark like Austen and plan like Shakespeare I open myself up to criticism. "Why don't you work as hard as ___?" They could ask. "___'s books aren't just marked, but every page is laminated and features a miniature Van Gogh at the bottom. Why don't you do that?" They could ask but hopefully won't.
The fact is that even though I work my tail off and love what I do, someone else is probably working on a lesson plan right now while I sit on this train.
I was talking to someone today who isn't a teacher but knows an awful lot about teaching. She made the excellent point that, at the end of the day, no matter what the government priority is or what new Ofsted document has come out or any number of other things that could go somewhere but probably won't... regardless of all those things, we just don't have a choice. We all need to go in the next morning and teach as best we can to a room full of other human beings. Barring sickness, we can't just not show up (and everyone knows calling in sick is actually more work than just going in). We can't phone it in, or send someone else. We also all know that anything short of our best efforts in the classroom almost always leads to disaster, which then inevitably creates more work for us in the long run.
Talk about performance management, eh? We get our performance managed every day, by easily the harshest critics in the world.
So we don't really get much choice.
How will you renegotiate your workload with yourself? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.