Teachers feeling pressures of Ontario’s work-driven society

By 
  • April 17, 2007
TORONTO - The average full-time elementary school teacher in Ontario’s Catholic system is putting in a 55.7-hour work week, and what counts as a part-time teaching job averages 36.8 hours per week, according to a new study commissioned by the teachers’ union.
The findings by James Matsui Research Inc. are higher than the national average of between 52 and 53 hours per week for teachers, but fall in line with a national pattern of increasing teacher workloads, said Matsui.

“It’s symptomatic of what’s happening in society at large,” said Grafton Warren, OECTA elementary teacher workload task force chair. “Society is becoming work-driven. We need to slow that down.”

The pressure on teachers, especially teachers who have been on the job less than five years and average a 56.5-hour week, is driven by the pace of new government initiatives, said outgoing Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association president Donna Marie Kennedy. Curriculum reforms, smaller classroom sizes and other requirements coming from Queen’s Park led to more split grades, ever-increasing evaluation and reporting requirements, and more special needs students in their classrooms, the teachers complain.

“They’ve got to slow that down. Teachers need time to implement, to review, to comment (on new initiatives),” Kennedy said.

Teacher workloads have become a barrier both to increasing quality of education and to ensuring the catholicity of the classroom experience, said Kennedy.

“In Catholic schools we talk about the value of family life. We talk about community life,” she said.

Teachers can’t model those values if work is robbing them of family and community life, said Kennedy.

The survey found that the average teacher works 35.1 weekends per year.

“If you’re overworked, over-stressed and overtired, how can you do a quality job?” she asked.

Teachers mentioned special needs students in the classroom as one of the most frequent sources of stress, said Warren.

“Teachers aren’t opposed to having special needs kids in the classroom. They just need the supports,” said Kennedy.

The survey of 1,767 teachers of Kindergarten through Grade 8 has a margin of statistical error of plus or minus 2.3 per cent.

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