Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed


System Overload

53ccc3e8f73817df89f77a3211a68253Yesterday we had a representative from our teacher’s union visit our school. It’s enterprise bargaining time again and she was visiting to let us know how the process was going. One of the issues the union is addressing in this round of discussions is the problem of excessive work load. This is a real problem. It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night and I’ve just finished working. Twice this week I’ve told my daughter I couldn’t listen to her read because I had work to do. I’ve been at work by 7:30 every morning and not out the door at the end of the day until after five. Most nights there is ‘homework’ for me that means I’m not helping my kids with their’s. I’d like to say this is unusual, but it’s a fairly normal week. I think this is true for many of us. I’m not sure how the union thinks that they can change this, but I wish them luck!

I’m not complaining (well maybe I am a little bit). This is the job I chose and I wouldn’t choose to do anything else. I don’t know that anything can be done about it. As a leader in a school, the work is there and it needs to be done. I think what we can do a better job of as leaders is making sure that we don’t overload our teachers.

Planning and managing a strong learning environment takes a lot of time and energy. Our teachers work hard. Throw in committees, parent meetings, professional development, report writing, staff meetings, yard duty and it can start feeling like good classroom practice come second to the ‘stuff’.

As leaders, I think we need to try and give our teachers a break. I’m not saying we can take away all the ‘stuff’, but shaving 5 mins off the occasional staff meeting instead of running 5 mins over can make a big difference to people’s headsets. Being aware that pushing forward with our work as leaders can have an effect on teachers workloads in essential. It’s not an easy balance to find. We certainly aren’t the only profession that has a tough workload and I know there’s not an easy fix. The push of ‘getting through everything’ means that it’s hard to justify these mini breaks, but I believe that the pros outweigh the cons.

We are in a profession where we need to be more aware of each other. Releasing the pressure valve occasionally is good for everyone. When people feel less stressed they are more aware of each other and provide a good support network for work mates. This is important. Covering the yard duty of a colleague who’s had three extra meetings this week, might be the thing that helps prevent their whole week going to the pack. This is better for teachers, it’s better for leaders and most importantly it’s better for students and classroom learning.

It’s a hard act to pull off, but we’ll keep trying.



The Battle for Balance

One of the things I’m struggling with most at the moment is finding balance. The balance between work and home is alway difficult and it’s not something I am doing very well.

Work is a busy place to be right now, in fact it has been all year. As well as my classroom, I am responsible for the school choir, work with our school Kapa Haka group, have been involved in film projects for DECD and AITSL, am on the Personel Advisory Committee (PAC), working with students in the New Media Awards program, and have worked with students to present lectures at UniSA. Being term 4, we are currently writing reports, planning graduation, looking at class placement and planning items for end of year concerts.

I’m not complaining, and I know that I’m certainly not the only teacher with a high workload. In fact, if I had to choose something to cut from my list, I would find it difficult. These are aspects of my work life that make this job something that I love doing.

But it’s a lot.

Home life isn’t much simpler. As foster carers, my wife, kids and I share our home with 2 other children (4 kids in total and until recently, 5). We have had school football, calisthenics, scouts, birthday parties, kids social lives (none of our own!), housework and all of the other things that come with normal family life.

So, with all that makes up our lives, how do we find a better balance? How do I do my job well and be a husband and father that is not only present, but able to give my family my complete focus as they deserve? It’s difficult, but we are giving it a good crack!

Last school holidays I made the decision to switch off, and disappear from work. This meant deleting certain apps from my phone for that time (sorry Twitter) and making a conscious effort to clear my head of the ever growing ‘to do’ list. It was a well timed decision. Until I switched off, I wasn’t really aware of how quickly I was running myself into the ground. I became aware that my kids had been (at times) walking on egg shells around me, and that I couldn’t remember the last time that my wife and I had taken 5 minutes of ‘time out’ for ourselves. At work, I had fallen back into my default mode and was feeling more stress than enjoyment in my job. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a necessary one.

I feel lucky that I have both positive home and work lives and know that for many people this isn’t so. I am definitely doing ‘balance’ better this term. We have ‘do not disturb’ times in place at home and are making the most of every opportunity that we have for some ‘down time’. But there is still room for improvement. If anyone has the magic recipe, I’d love to hear it.

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