I work 48 hours a week!

I’ve spent the last couple of days feeling like a bit of a prat.

On Friday, I saw a hashtag that piqued my interest.

I blithely tweeted back with my honest answer.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a tweet blow up like that one did.

Look, it’s not that I was previously unaware of how hard I was working. I even wrote about it here. I just didn’t realise that it was unusual to work that kind of schedule in ELT; I honestly, genuinely thought everyone did it.

I quickly found out that wasn’t true when the replies started popping up on my Twitter feed. f you’ve got a couple of hours spare, I do encourage you to check out the original hot mess on Twitter via the link above, but if not, here are some particularly tasty morsels for your viewing pleasure: “Bloody hell, go easy on yourself!” “That’s an insane amount of work.” “It *really* isn’t worth it. Your health and sanity are worth a lot more.” “With hours like that you have to question your quality of teaching.” There was even one guy who just tweeted back at me with the words “Burnout alert!”

… and so on, and so forth, pretty much continuously for the next two days, until my original Tweet had spawned a kind of monster comment thread, riddled with shocked reactions and well-meant suggestions and when-I-was-younger anecdotes from my fellow teachers. I have to tell you, I spent my Sunday afternoon perched at my living room table, with one panicked eye on my Delta Module 3 assignment and the other eye, mildly horrified, on my Twitter notifications.

I felt, and continue to feel, incredibly stupid. And if ‘stupid’ isn’t quite the right word with quite the right nuance, then ‘naive’ certainly is. How could I have thought that this was the done thing for so long? Why did I just blindly accept it all, despite acknowledging to myself on my own blog that work was completely exhausting? How had I managed to get through the madness-inducing workload of Delta Module 2, promising myself that it was only a temporary arrangement, only to let myself promptly drown in a sea of work upon starting back at my regular job? How was I supposed to know?

The scariest thing, I suppose, is the thought that if Marc had never tweeted the original hashtag, I might never have realised there was anything wrong with my status quo. It really does make me wonder how many other young ELT teachers are out there dealing with the same sort of demands and expectations at work, without the support of more seasoned teachers – or even colleagues with experience in other industries – to support them. I certainly would never have got to this point without the help and advice of all the lovely Twitterfolk who took a moment to stop and leave me their words of wisdom and support. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is an issue worth adding to initial teacher training courses.

As it stands, I went straight to my DoS on Monday afternoon to hash things out. Despite being utterly convinced that I was doing the right thing, and with all the validation of written comments from several other ELT professionals, I was still absolutely terrified going in to that meeting. It’s made me realise that I have yet to fully confront my (unfounded) feelings of doubt and low self-worth at work.

We discussed the problems as I saw them, as well as a couple of solutions to help make things more manageable for me, and while I have no guarantee that any of those ideas are going to be taken on board, I do feel much better for having faced things head on. As one of my colleagues reminded me, you can only change the things that are directly under your control. Whatever happens now, at least I can say I tried.

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Published by

Sanchia (@sanchiadanielle)

EFL teacher in southern Italy.

11 thoughts on “I work 48 hours a week!”

  1. Sadly, 48 hours a week is a light week for your typical NQT.

    Even sadder that so many in this industry want teachers to work like NQTs without the salary, support, or training.

    As was discussed on twitter, there are ways to reduce your workload, but more importantly, never lose the courage to say “no”. The world will not end if you do, and if it does, blame the people who lay all the foundations on your shoulders.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robert! You’re absolutely right about NQTs. Makes me grateful for all the training my school has provided and paid for – can’t imagine how teachers cope without it! As for your advice about saying “no” – you’re spot on, once again, and it’s a skill I’m absolutely going to have to learn as soon as possible. Thanks again for checking in and for all your advice on Twitter and LinkedIn 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Re. what Marc said – maybe Sanchia you didn’t count the marking but you did count things like prep and travel, which I’m sure others neglect to mention when counting the hours their work takes up. I wonder what your actual contact hours were (if you’re willing to share). I’ve worked in the public sector where there was a max of 21 class hours per week for full-timers, with a possible +3 of cover, and I always thought that was about the limit for my own effectiveness and sanity. It panned out to a 35 hour week with prep, marking and admin thrown in, sometimes a bit more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Neil! I have 25 hours of contact time a week, and no, I don’t mind you asking. You’ve made a good point about unfair comparisons, though – we all work in such different contexts that it’s hard to really know how much is too much in a given situation. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  3. Hi Sanchia

    Glad you took the bull by the horns and chatted with your DoS. Good for you! I hope that your hours do change and that your workload is lighter. Burnout is not good for anybody. Did you agree on any dates for things to be done by or a follow-up on chat to this meeting? Always helps if this kind of stuff is organised, too. So your conversation doesn’t get lost or fogotten about. Keep asking and reminding, if necessary.

    Good luck and keep us updated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for reading and for your advice, Sarah! I hope things change too. 🙂 I agreed to a short-, medium- and long-term plan and management actually contacted me today with a solution in terms of reducing my hours – which I thought was fantastically efficient! Really makes me feel valued as a member of staff. I’ll make sure to keep looking out for myself though – and I’ll definitely keep you updated!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey Sanchia! I was in a similar situation until December working on DELTA 2 and 3 at the same time as well as working 23 contact hours (I know, I’m ridiculous, it was Not A Good Idea…).

    I’ve since got much better at saying no, and am currently looking at contract renegotiation to take into consideration the time I spend on resource management. Glad to see you’re on the case and sorting out your hours too!

    It’s so easy for teachers to slip into a 45-50 plus hour week, especially when you’re younger without family considerations. We all need to be more aware of our limits, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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