Are teachers overworked?

- An extract -
(My own comments are below)

Are Singapore teachers overworked?

By Ion Danker – May 16th, 2010

Many people call it one of the most under-appreciated career choices in Singapore today.

In a forum letter in The Straits Times on 15 May 2010, a teacher’s wife, Ms Aishah Quek chronicles her husband’s typical work day. She bemoans her husband’s punishing workload and questions the seeming non-existence of a work-life balance.

A teacher in a local primary school, Ms Quek’s husband wakes up at 5am every weekday, and leaves home by 6am, to reach school in time for morning ‘guard duty’ at 7am. After remedial lessons, co-curricular activities and administrative duties, her husband reaches home at 8pm for dinner, before, surprise, surprise, he starts to work from home.

If these normal working hours are representative of a typical day in the life of a teacher, do teachers; the people who play an integral role in shaping young, impressionable minds, have sufficient time to relax and recharge, before the next day comes around?

A student in the morning session has about 6 hours of lessons per day (from 7.30am to 1pm). But that’s just about the time a teacher’s after-teaching hours begin.

“On a typical day, we mark assignments, conduct remedial lessons and complete many administrative tasks, which often extend long beyond our official working hours,” said John*, 35, a married primary school teacher with a one-year-old son.

Another educator, Seline*, 27, who called it quits after three years, said, “When my husband and I were both teaching, we hardly had any quality time in the evenings because we’d both be busy marking assignments, preparing for the next day’s lessons or just be too tired.”

Added another teacher, Lionel*, “I already feel drained by the time I start marking my students’ work after 5pm. This increases the likelihood of making errors.”

KJ*, 23, a fresh graduate from the National Institute of Education, knows that the teaching road ahead may not be an easy one.

“I believe we just need to find a balance, set our priorities and hope our senior colleagues will share tips with us on how best to handle different situations,” she said.

My informal survey revealed that most teachers joined the profession to pursue their passion to equip the young with knowledge, and invaluable life skills. However, teachers today are feeling the strain.
Are our teachers overworked? How do you think the Ministry of Education can help teachers have a better work-life balance?


Hmmmm.... what is my stand? Do teachers have a work-life balance?

It depends.

In the first few years of my teaching life, I was such a workaholic. I worked from 7am to 6pm, only to continue from 8:30 to midnight , or as far as my eyes and body could take it. I would go out on Saturday afternoons/evenings and when Sunday came, it would be back to work. It was crazy! Amazingly , my parents slowly accepted that was the way of a teacher's life and they had no complaints about it. I wished they had complained and insisted that I spent more time with the family.

So what kept me busy?

Yeah, teaching and preparing lesson materials definitely. But that is not the problem. In fact , I like teaching. I like communicating with the teenaged students (albeit, at times, they really drive me crazy!). I love getting myself involved with CCA , especially since it involves the performing arts. Oh, I don't mind giving remedials either.

But that is not the problem. The issues would be the long meetings, dealing with parents (unreasonable ones or otherwise), organising events (internal and external) and the HUMONGOUS load of admin work!!! The last one really KILLS. Only if one is in a (SG) teacher's shoes, would one be able to empathise.

There was a 'joke' among my friends (who are teachers too) that a teacher is able to apply for any kind of jobs. ... since we deal with so many different jobs at one time. Jack of all trades, master of ......(?).

Perhaps, that's what kills the passion for teaching. We get so weary and tired from doing all the other matters that we have not much time left to  prepare for excellent lesson delivery. For those not in the know, the turnover rate for this occupation here is extremely high! It is no surprise why we always see that 'calling' advertisements on TV (if you know which one I am referring to).

I am surprised that I have lasted this long!

When I got married and we moved into our own flat, it got worse. The added responsibilities of taking care of the household, cooking , cleaning etc etc could drive me crazy! I am glad that the husby shares part of the load - such a blessing :) . But he is busy with his work (yes, teaching too!)  as well that sometimes, I just cannot bear to ask him to help out.

That was when I decided that it is up to me to draw the line. Yes, I am still bogged down with work , I still work at nights and on weekends but when my body says 'No',  I accept it graciously. I don't fight back. I still try my best to meet deadlines, to prepare good lessons, to interact with my students but I try not to be stressed up if I can't. Just can't.

I have my much-needed 5 hours of sleep each night (but that's not enough, is it?) now and I have managed to squeeze in a weekly outing with my parents (no matter how small or near) and some dating time with the other half.

It is still tough but if I want to keep sane, I have to do it. The current school I am in is better than my previous one. At least, this school believes that spending time with one's family is just as important (if not more).

It is not easy to understand the hullaballoo created. But then , teachers are afterall, humans.

Not some superheroes.
Many entered the field with passion but unfortunately, it fizzles out.

Sad, I know.



Kelvin said...

Never know teaching in SG is so hard nowadays.

FQ said...

hehe...yup, so different from the old days :P