Should teachers shun marking piles and instead plan for a more meaningful work-life balance?
It’s official, teachers must relax to avoid burnout. Here is a simple fable to support why all teachers must switch off during the holiday season – perhaps even longer-term.
There was once an OfSTED inspector who was visiting a school in a small English village by the sea. As the inspector toured the corridors, she saw a classroom teacher walking towards the school exit at 4:00PM, having marked piles of exercise books. The inspector was impressed and asked the teacher, “How long does it take you to mark so many books?”
The teacher replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
The inspector was astonished. “Then why don’t you stay longer at school and mark even more?”
“This is enough to make school leaders happy,” the teacher said.
The inspector then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The teacher replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go to school and then mark a few books after school, then I go home to my rented accommodation and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take an early evening nap with my wife, and when the evening comes, I join my friends in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The inspector offered a suggestion to the teacher.
“I have a PhD in school management and have inspected hundreds of schools. I could help you to become a more successful teacher, perhaps a school leader. From now on, you should spend more time at school and try to mark as many books as possible. When you have the best results for your students, you could consider a promotion and then tell other teachers how to mark even more books. Soon, you will be able to afford to have more time away from the classroom, set-up your own school, your own policies for marking and feedback, perhaps even an assessment network. By then, you will have moved out of this small village and to a large school in the city, where you can set up Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) to manage other schools.”
The inspector continued …
“And after that?” the teacher asks.
The inspector laughs heartily, “After that, you can live and work like a super-head in your own house, and when the time is right, you can work more closely with the Department for Education and float your own consultancy with various DfE tender processes, and you will be rich.”
The teacher asks, “And after that?”
The inspector says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house in the village near the sea, wake up early in the morning, pop into work, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The teacher was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
What are you doing to take control of your workload? If you are a school leader, what are you doing to support your colleagues? Nobody should be marking examination papers or planning lessons over the holiday period. Claim back your time.
Adapted from one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho.