Effective Practices : Human Resources
Human Resources Section 11
1. Do schools have standards or guidelines for calculating and establishing teaching workload?
2. Do schools weight some classes differently than others?
3. How do schools ensure that individuals receive schedules that are personally healthy, widely perceived as fair and comparable to others, and that collectively meet the needs of the school?
4. Is there any allowance made in the schedule for participation in the life of the school such as committee work or serving as College or faculty chair?
5. What are the underlying principles and practices that make a school particularly effective in the area of workload management?
Do schools have standards or guidelines for calculating and establishing teaching workload?
Teaching workload is a subject that is frequently under review in many of the schools surveyed. Each school has created a fairly unique way of looking at their teaching loads. The following descriptions will provide a sense of the various considerations that go into creating programs that seem right and fair in each setting.
All of the schools surveyed consider their kindergarten teachers to be full time teachers who have all of their teaching periods condensed into the morning. The schedule for kindergarten teachers begins about 8 in the morning, and ends either just before or after lunch. In addition kindergarten teachers attend the full faculty meeting and a kindergarten department meeting each week. The teachers are expected to do other work related to the kindergarten as well including prospective student interviews (a heavier burden in this part of the school than elsewhere), work with parents, and practice for puppet plays. Kindergarten teachers also work on committees in the same way as all other full time teachers. Kindergarten teachers are also responsible for supervising the work of their assistants and for managing the kindergarten after care program.
All of the schools described their class teachers as being responsible for teaching main lesson plus those classes not covered by other subject teachers. The number of those other periods varies depending on the grade of the class, as fewer special subjects are taught in the younger grades while older students enjoy a full complement of special subject classes. Most schools report that there is a natural progression from the class teacher being with the students quite a bit during the early grades to 7th and 8th grade teachers only seeing their class during main lesson. Class teachers often supervise lunch for their classes as well, and are present during periods taught by subject teachers as needed.
The heavier workload with the younger classes and the additional strain of creating the rhythmic form and discipline in the classroom has led schools to find several ways of supporting these teachers and providing health in their schedules. In one school a classroom assistant is provided in first and second grade, helping with classroom set up and assisting the children as they get ready for recess.
In one school class teacher schedules are set so they receive two afternoons a week off. Generally they leave one day by 1 pm and another day by 12:15. Another school reported that in Grade 1 the class teacher is off three afternoons a week. This was originally done to provide the students with several good long nap periods. However, it was soon noticed that the grade 1 teacher was looking far more rested, and was able to end the year with the forces to look forward to the second grade.
The heaviest workload reported was main lesson plus 8 extra periods. In this school the class teachers in seventh and eighth grades teach many of the special subject classes. These teachers each have an assistant 10 hours a week, and are free to use those assistants to teach classes, do corrections or whatever best serves the needs of the teacher and the students.
Subject teacher workloads vary from 16 to 20, with most schools reporting 18 to 20 periods. Full time subject teachers serve on at least one committee and attend the faculty meeting. In some schools subject teachers have regularly scheduled substitution times to, for example, support the mentoring program. As part of their substitution schedule they are required to be on campus one morning a week to fill any main lesson substitution needs. This eliminates much of the difficulty in filling last minute main lesson substitutions, and helps all members of the faculty feel that they carry different but equal responsibilities in the school. Subject teachers are also called on for yard and recess coverage, often more frequently than class teachers who have heavier class loads.
High School Teachers
A wide range of approaches to scheduling and workload is found in the high schools responding to the survey. In one school the high school does not count student teaching hours at all. Instead full time employees are expected to be on campus a certain number of hours each week. For example, teachers will come in at 8 a.m. (or 9 if not teaching a main lesson) and stay until school is dismissed. They are also expected to attend two afternoon faculty meetings each week. An employee that is 3/4 time comes in at 10:30, and then stays for the same time as a full time colleague. Half time teachers usually work just the morning or just the afternoon, depending on when their classes are scheduled. For example, the librarian works mornings while the music teacher comes in for the afternoon.
In another school the high school teachers are expected to work 16 to 17 contact periods a week. Full time teachers are expected to do student advising for about 5-8 students. Some faculty members also serve as a class sponsor, and the rest of the full time faculty members are required to support a sponsor in his work with a class. High school teachers are also expected to serve as chaperones at student events. All teachers also act as a peer sponsor for a colleague at the school, as well as serving on either a faculty or student committee.
A third school reported that the high school is open from 7:30 until 4:30 four days a week, and from 7:30 until 3:30 on the fifth due to the faculty staff meeting. High school faculty are expected to be on site from 8 until 3:30 daily, and are scheduled at times for either the earlier or later shifts. The full time equivalency is 27.5 units. A unit is determined as follows:
- 5 units for a class that meets 5 periods a week for a year
- 1 unit for a class that meets one period a week for a year
- 2 units per 3-week main lesson block
- 2 units for class sponsor
- 1 unit per individual student advisee
Do schools weight some classes differently than others?
None of the schools studied weight any of their classes more heavily when calculating workload. However, there is a general recognition that some classes (e.g. high school mathematics or writing courses) may have a significant level of corrections associated with them. For this reason it is critical that teachers have quality workspaces available to them throughout the day where corrections can be done without distraction. Although each school has a general approach to scheduling, adjustments are routinely made for a variety of reasons, and a course load with excessive corrections could be considered a reason to adjust an individual’s workload.
How do schools ensure that individuals receive schedules that are personally healthy, widely perceived as fair and comparable to others, and that collectively meet the needs of the school?
Most schools have a single individual charged with putting the schedule together for the year. Often times this is a long time teacher or administrator, someone who knows the workload implications of various classes and who is able to make informed suggestions about schedule alterations that will meet an individual’s needs and be socially supportable by other teaching colleagues.
Some schools report that setting the class assignments is fairly straightforward, but that committee assignments can be more difficult. In some schools it is the faculty development committee that assigns individuals to committees, trying to balance the individual’s skills and interests with the needs of the various committees. It is important that this area of work be held in consciousness, for it is easy for people with gifts to overextend and get burned out. The scheduler and the faculty development committee must be sensitive to this and work together to consciously bring balance into teachers’ schedules. In most schools any major difficulties that cannot be worked out between the colleague, the scheduler and the faculty development committee are referred to the College of Teachers.
Another school reports that any changes to committee assignments are handled at a faculty meeting at the beginning of the year. People are provided with an opportunity to speak about feeling burdened or to note that they are ready to take on additional work. The faculty looks for balance, recognizing that some people have greater gifts in committee work than others but also keeping these individuals from over-committing.
Is there any allowance made in the schedule for participation in the life of the school such as committee work or serving as College or faculty chair?
Most schools adjust the schedule for the faculty chair so that the position is primarily administrative. The faculty chair is typically seen as 50 to 80% administrative; the norm is about 75% with only a few classes being taught each week. Only one school reported service as the faculty chair is counted as the teacher’s committee work, and that no other credit is given for this additional responsibility. Some of the schools reported schedule adjustments for their College chair, but added that these were not the norm and were handled on a case-by-case basis.
Many schools report that first year teachers are exempt from participation in the committee life of the school, and that even experienced teachers who are new to the community are asked to take a year, get settled and meet the community before taking on committee work. First grade teachers, regardless of their years of service, are often freed from any committee work.
At times schools will also reduce workload on a case-by-case basis if a teacher is dealing with a personal crisis of some sort, or if the class is in crisis.
Seniors teachers who are asked to carry the responsibility of mentoring other colleagues have this service recognized as committee work.
One school noted that it is the role of the faculty chair to be sensitive to the needs of the teachers, and to send someone home if he or she is getting overextended. This is especially true at report writing time, but can come up at any time throughout the year.
A school and faculty are well served when the school is truly interested in supporting the activities that bring renewal to its teachers, and allows the faculty chair and the scheduler the authority to support these efforts to create balance. It is also important to recognize that teaching is only one part of what makes a good teacher. Parent work, collegial work, and administrative work are also important. There must be a give and take, and a real desire to make the schedule work for everyone.
What are the underlying principles and practices that make a school particularly effective in the area of workload management?
The over riding focus is on creating a schedule that is healthy for the students and balanced for the teachers. See: Pedagogy Section 6 Class Schedules - The Rhythms of the Day and the Week
Schools try to be conscious of pacing in the schedule. One school has a goal of scheduling so as to give each class teacher one afternoon off a week. This doesn’t happen every year for every one, as this is the last priority in setting schedules. Similarly, at this school subject teachers are not expected to be at school until the end of main lesson.
Conscious efforts are made to ensure that the extra work outside of the classroom is evenly distributed.
The creation of a faculty chair position has been an important step in building a healthy faculty. The faculty chair is responsible for the general health of the faculty. This is achieved in several ways. While the College sets the general schedule for the year, it is the role of the faculty chair to sense when someone is overburdened in the moment and to help that person get some relief. The faculty chair also senses when there are patterns to complaints, and serves as the focal point for school wide issues so that faculty members, especially class teachers, do not receive too much of this burden. The faculty chair is a communicator between groups, sharing information and leaving less room for misunderstanding and the escalation of a problem to a serious level. The faculty chair works to ensure that the school year starts with everything in place so there is a smooth beginning. The focus is on facilitating all school pedagogical matters in a way that promotes soul economy.
Schools trust that its colleagues will do what’s right for the school, the children and their colleagues. People are not viewed as trying to shirk their responsibilities, and when a concern arises it can be discussed from a positive perspective.
Schools recognize that new teachers need a little space for extra preparation time and to allow for their learning curve, and schedules are adjusted accordingly.
It is important for schools to recognize that some people can give more than others, and that two people making different contributions may both be working at full capacity and doing work that is honored.
The school has to be realistic in terms of setting schedules because there is a real desire to support long-term success. Burdensome schedules must be avoided even if the school is desperate; this is a path to burnout and high faculty turnover.