We Need To Admit That The Job Of The Classroom Teacher Has Simply Become Too Big
When asking the question “what do you think teachers do?” to individuals who are not involved or know someone involved in education it wouldn’t be too uncommon for a response to solely feature the answers of teaching kids, grade papers, and call parents. Some might be able to throw in a few extra responsibilities such as coaching, leading a club, or afterschool tutoring.
Those in education know that the list goes on much longer than that and is precisely why teachers’ level of stress and burnout seems to be at an all-time high with 44% of new teachers leaving the classroom within 5 years. What has caused the responsibilities of the classroom teacher to have seemingly ballooned up over the last few decades?
What ARE the Responsibilities of Teachers?
A teacher in a stereotypical school will have, but not limited to, the following responsibilities:
- Teach (with varied and scaffolded instruction)
- Call Parents
- Attend Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
- Staff Meetings
- Monitor Hallways
- Curriculum Development (lesson plans, units, assessments, etc.)
- Submit Data/Reports to Administration
- Have the Classroom Observed by Administration
- Professional Development
- Mandated Reporters
- Model Health Habits and Behaviors
- Implement Successful and Varied Classroom Management Strategies
- Pursue Higher Degree (typically for teaching license renewal)
- Department Meetings
- Various School Functions
- Clean Classroom
- Purchase School Supplies
The above are the basic framework of the job of teachers. When looking at this list, the results of a study done by Keith Herman of the University of Missouri found only 7% of teachers were classified as low stress, 30% had moderate levels, and 60% had high levels. In a statement regarding his study, Herman states:
“We as a society need to consider methods of […] finding ways for administrators, peers, and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated.”
Finding the Problem
What is interesting about this problem is that teachers in other high-achieving countries (Norway, Sweden, South Korea, Germany, etc.), but also in lower-achieving countries such as Kosovo that only report 33% of teachers are high stress, don’t report anywhere near as high levels of stress.
When surveyed about what are the primary stressors for teachers, respondents to Chris Kyriacou’s study Teacher Stress and Burnout: An International Review they listed student behavior, attitude, work ethic, school-based assessment systems, too many deadlines, not enough resources, pressure from administration, and constant expectations of immediate results/responses to requests for information/behavior report as specific stressors in the job.
There is no easy solution. A blanket shifting of certain responsibilities of teachers onto someone else, especially when school systems are already having funding problems, is not feasible. The problem stemmed from a slow creep of tasks that the teacher needs to adhere to in the modern education system. It cannot simply be pruned back.
Until some sort of fix, to a however small degree, is found teachers will continue to be a part of some of the highest stress jobs available to the detriment of them, their students, their schools and their country. Teachers are the foundation of the future.