I’ve recently made the jump from the public sector to the private sector and have noticed many changes. One was so completely unexpected that it actually made me stop dead in my tracks while walking around my classroom.
There are many differences between public and private school, some obvious and some subtle.
The students in private schools tend to be better behaved, the schools are better resourced, there are more extra-curricular activities and opportunities. On the flip side, the hours put in by the teachers tend to be higher to meet the higher demands. With such involved parents, and the fact that the students are clients who literally fund the teachers’ jobs, teachers are expected to provide a greater range of, and more in depth, services.
It is an expectation that teachers will be actively involved in the school community. That means attending all of the school events and being directly and enthusiastically involved in extra-curricular activities. Unfortunately for me, the school I am at requires this involvement to be at least 40% in the arts or sports. I have a distinct disinterest in sports, so that means trying to fit myself into the already over-supervised arts programs. So far no luck, but I will keep trying. It isn’t fair on the students to have someone like me involved in their sports programs – I am just simply not interested.
Aside from that, we do one extra lesson a day. That means an extra hour and a bit above what I was working before each day. That time then comes out of the time I would have usually used for planning. And now I have an extra lesson a day to plan for as well.
So add up the hour plus a week for extra-curricular, 5 hours of extra class, and probably say 3-4 hours of extra planning a week, and time is cutting short.
I have more meetings now too, eating up an entire afternoon and evening. In a way I am finding this beneficial – we know we have to be at school in meetings until a certain time, so there is no getting annoyed at anyone for dragging out meetings. You have to be there anyway, so you may as well hold those meetings and collaboration times.
I have found the students to be more interested in their education too. They are actively emailing me and coming to see me for help, to catch up on work, and to even get extra work. That isn’t really something I have come across before, and it also adds to the workload. Of course there is increased parental involvement too – I am getting anywhere from 2 to 10 emails from parents a day, all of which I try to respond to as quickly as I can.
It might seem like I’m complaining at this point. I truly am not, I’m simply comparing my workload before to now. Why? Because of what I realised in class the other day.
Class time has now turned into my down time, the time where I have calm and control. The time when I am enjoying my profession the most, when I am actually relaxing and having fun.
It used to be that such times happened outside the classroom for the most part.
I realise now that before working at this new school, my classroom time was the time I was most stressed. It was the time of day when I’d work the hardest, it would be the most emotionally, mentally, and physically draining time. I would fight with students to get them to do the work, argue about behaviour expectations, deal with meltdowns, and try endless ways to make the lessons engaging enough that they would just do the work without too much complaint. I would come out of lessons and feel myself relaxing because they were over.
Now, however, it has reversed.
When I step into the classroom I relax.
It is absolutely lovely to have such well behaved students. Don’t get me wrong, there are definite behaviour issues, but for the most part they are quashed easily enough. I still give out detentions, have behaviour conversations, and threaten to call home (haven’t had to do that yet thankfully). But it is nothing like I had before. I can actually teach now, and do behaviour management second. That’s something I have usually had in the reverse (not for every lesson, or even every group of students, but for the larger part of my teaching). The students now are enjoying their learning, enjoying interacting with me and the content. We are moving through the content at a reasonable pace, and they are actually asking clarifying questions and asking for specific help when they need it. They mostly listen to each other, and work well enough in groups without a big fuss. They open books when you ask them to, and actually try to speed up when you tell them they’re being too slow. We have meaningful conversations about the work, and go off on good tangents. Nothing is too much of a hassle or big deal for them to give it a go, and we even have already worked out strategies for when things are too hard and we want to give up (we don’t say ‘I can’t do it’, we say ‘I can’t do it yet‘). We actually have fun, even in math!
When the lesson is over though, the stress creeps in again. My time outside the classroom is so crowded and demanded that it is overwhelming. I am having about 2-3 hours of non-work-related time a day at best, sometimes just enough time to eat dinner while watching a show and that’s all. That’s 2-3 hours a day where I can spend time with my husband, catch up with family and friends, cook and eat dinner, try to get to the gym, work on this website, do things like a normal person does to relax. And I don’t even have kids of my own!
I always knew this jump would see an increase in my workload. And I’m finding that hard to adjust to. I am concerned I will slip into the mental state I was in in London. The saving grace now is that the classroom time is significantly better, and that I am living back in the same country as my family and friends.
I’m sure once I’ve been here for a term or so I will be used to the chaos being outside the classroom. Until then, I will continue to take solace in my time inside the classroom.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.