On the Costs of Workload

A correspondent from Southwestern Ontario describes her effort to achieve excellence in a system that’s designed for the provision of adequacy:

Interesting stuff re: quality in the classroom.

Here’s my take: there are teachers who try mightily to adhere to some sort of quality in the classroom despite the numbers, and despite the crushing load of marking (I am a writing instructor). I am one of those teachers, and I think there are many in the system. We mark and prepare at home, in the evenings and on the weekends; we sometimes get up at ridiculous hours in the morning to prep for new classes or to tweak something that didn’t work last time we tried it. Others, whether management, taxpayers, policymakers or the students are relying or counting on the professionalism of the college faculty to maintain standards despite the numbers and pressures.

But this massive effort is ruining my life. The money doesn’t make up for it. My kids suffer, my partner takes on a huge share of our parental and life responsibilities. My health is suffering. I can’t take this for much longer. I’ve been teaching for less than 10 years. I don’t want to become one of those burned out, don’t-care educators (I’ve seen a few–remarkably few, but some).

So, I didn’t care if the money went up. I was willing to send my “retroactive pay increase” to wherever it came from. I want a more manageable workload that will, like a previous poster stated, allow me to continue to be proud of what I do for a living, and actually enjoy it (like most teachers, I love teaching).

So, my honest reasons for wanting a workload that is manageable comes from a selfish place, but I do know that the benefits will certainly be passed on in the classroom.

Obviously, there are overachievers among us — those who are determined to providing more than the system allows for (i.e., more out-of-class contact time with students; more time spent evaluating, so as to provide feedback that is actually productive instead of merely judgmental).  They are, I can only assume motivated by a personal dissent that the needs of the students, rather than the dictates of our managers, ought to determine our proper workload.

Elsewhere, I have suggested that doing that work despite the lack of resources needed for its performance ultimately perpetuates the continued underfunding of the system and the continued workloads placed upon us.  By extension, I wonder what a work-to-rule situation would look like: At the very least, it would likely settle the question once and for all of whether Ontario’s college professors’ contracts provide adequate time and resources to do the work that their job requires.

Actually, I take that back — the question that it would settle would actually be what kind of job the Ontario college management feels that the professors are contracted to perform — what level of academic quality they are contracted to provide — in the first place.

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