Teaching is one of the most stressful careers you can choose. You could list a million reasons why, but I want to concentrate on just one: the work is never done. If you are a teacher, you know that you live, eat, breathe, sleep, and caffeinate about this job all the time. It…just…never…ends.
This is why teachers don’t last too long in the profession at times. They probably thought, as I did, “How hard can this be? You talk to kids all day. They do stuff. You spend a few minutes grading a handful of papers. And you get crayons.”
The truth is, teachers typically get to work thirty minutes to an hour before their contract time. Why? Well, for one, it’s quiet. There isn’t a line stacking up to use the copy machine. You can enjoy that last cup of really hot coffee before you drink all the cold cups later.
OK, that’s part of it.
But in reality, there are students coming in early for tutoring. And you know your planning period is going to be taken up with an IEP meeting, or a PLC meeting, or a parent conference, or a curriculum meeting, or…
You spend the day corralling kids, dealing with drama (sometimes from the teachers), talking Johnny in the hallway about why it is important that he pay attention in class in spite of his ADHD, being evaluated by an administrator, waiting another hour before class is over so you can take 45 seconds and run to the restroom, return phone calls to parents wanting to know why Suzy got a 93 on her paper instead of the 98 she deserved, and on and on.
Let’s not even talk about bus duty, after school programs, evening meetings, required professional development hours and more.
At night, you get home, try to spend some time with the family, eat dinner, maybe watch 30 minutes of news to cheer you up, and then start in on grading papers, planning the next lesson or unit, reading the book your administrators assigned to all teachers, and more. You fall into bed and lay there wondering what tomorrow will look like until you finally wear yourself out enough to sleep.
There is no end to the work. We work when we get up. We work through the day. We work at night. We work on weekends. We work, work, work. And, after awhile, we get tired of the work. We’re stressed out. Our health suffers. We burn out. And we suddenly dread the very job that breathed life into our existence just a few short years earlier. Why? Because the work is never done.
Now, think about our students. Many get up way too early, stand out in the dark to catch a bus that takes an hour to get to school, and then slog their way through 7 hours of a work day. After that, they take another hour to get home, or perhaps they get picked up by a parent an hour or two after school because of tutoring or clubs or sports or…
They scarf down dinner, and then they sit down to do the homework assigned by their overworked, overstressed, overly tired teacher. Some of our high school students state they go to bed at midnight or later because of the amount of homework they have to do for AP classes, Honors classes, and more.
Our kids come to school tired, frustrated, stressed, and worn out. They feel like the work is never done.
“But wait!” I hear you say. “My homework should only take 30 minutes!” That may be true, but the teacher across the hall also gave 30 minutes, and the one in the section across campus gave 30 minutes, and another gave 30 minutes. So now, with an hour to school, 7 in school, and hour home, and 2 hours minimum homework, we’re up to 11 hour work days.
And that doesn’t count the homework we assign over the weekends (many don’t…thank you) or the work they must be over fall, winter, or spring breaks.
Is it any wonder our kids have grown tired of school? We don’t want to be there at times because our workload never ends. Our kids often don’t want to be there for the exact same reason.
Should homework be abolished? I don’t think so. I think it should be meaningful. Drill and kill is never meaningful. Ever. Filling in empty spaces on a worksheet (I mean, really, worksheets??) isn’t meaningful.
So, let’s really think about this. Your thoughts are greatly welcomed.