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50-hour work week reality for teachers

Society survey shows educators cope with increasing demands

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Education Minister Nancy Allan acknowledged 'classrooms are more diverse' and said the NDP has increased resources.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Education Minister Nancy Allan acknowledged 'classrooms are more diverse' and said the NDP has increased resources. Photo Store

More than half of Manitoba's teachers believe their workload this past school year was less manageable than the year before.

One in three had a larger class size, and 17 per cent had 30-plus students.

Almost nine in 10 teachers worked more than 40 hours a week, many putting in an extra 10 to 14 hours weekly.

"There's a whole lot of teachers working a 50-hour week," Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson said.

MTS published its first teacher workload survey since 2009 in the Manitoba Teacher released Monday. The union conducted the survey early in 2013, asking teachers to compare 2012-2013 to the previous year.

Teachers said smaller class sizes are their top priority for easing stress and pressure, closely followed by limiting the students with behaviour problems in each class.

Education Minister Nancy Allan said Tuesday the province added 83 teachers last year and 70 so far this year in its plan to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classes at 20 students by 2017.

The province listens to teachers, Allan said: "That was their No. 1 priority. We're just into our second year," she said.

Already, K-3 classes of more than 20 students have been reduced by 21 per cent, Allan said.

Olson said the increase in class size shouldn't reflect on Allan's capping K-3.

"We are seeing immigration, and enrolment is going up," concentrated in a handful of school divisions, Olson said. "It could be a bulge going through this year."

One in five teachers said reduced class size would make the biggest difference in their workload, the highest-cited factor just ahead of more supports for students with behaviour issues, and more prep time.

"We know classrooms are more diverse," and are trying to help teachers cope through increased resources, said Allan.

The data have shown significant workload problems for teachers since the first survey in 1991.

Olson said MTS has not released how many of its 13,300 full-time teachers responded, but said the response was more than half the membership.

Olson said teachers are in school at least 40 hours a week, arriving well before the 9 a.m. bell and staying well beyond 3:30 p.m., then working at home. "Two to three hours (daily) outside of contact time would be a bare minimum," he said.

Teachers use plastic bins to take work home, he said: "There's no way to haul what you need home in a briefcase."

The survey said 58 per cent of teachers felt their workload was less manageable than in the previous year, and about 60 per cent said "the wide variation of students hinders performance."

Almost half, 46 per cent, felt job stress affects their health.

Only seven per cent did not have a special-needs student, and the norm is two or three, said Olson, emphasizing the ongoing need for more resources.

Twenty-one per cent said the extracurricular load is excessive.

The same percentage spent more than 100 hours a year supervising extra-curricular activities, but they could be two different groups of teachers, said Olson. While extra-curricular work is supposedly voluntary, he said, "There are subtle ways of creating these pressures."

How a teacher feels about workload pressure and stress "depends on the nature of the challenge. We've got a tremendous disparity of resources in the province," Olson said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

How can we keep classes small and teachers’ working hours reasonable? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2013 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 6:43 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds question for discussion

September 18, 2013 at 4:30 PM: Correction: 100 hours a year supervising extra-curricular activities.

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