Teacher Overload

June 28, 1995

It is nothing new to hear that teachers feel they are being asked to do too much and that basic education is suffering as a result. In fact, recent history would suggest that this is more than just a feeling, as society has made increasingly greater demands on teachers to fulfill needs that a generation ago were handled outside the school. Still, it would be rash to assume that nearly everything that teachers are asked to do today is without merit just because it requires extra work.

A report presented to the Howard County Board of Education last week sounds like the result of a very heated gripe session, with county elementary school teachers complaining about everything from unreasonable demands from central administration, to shortages of materials, to too much time stolen from academic subjects. The report was unofficially titled "Curriculum Overload," but as Associate Superintendent Sandra J. Erickson pointed out, it was more an inventory of "teacher overload."

In fact, it has long been recognized within the profession that elementary school teachers have it rough, owing in part to their lack of a planning period during the school day. Complicated curriculum guides, numerous standardized tests and non-academic programs add stress to the average teacher's day. Some of the solutions suggested by teachers may have vTC merit, such as streamlining curriculum and reducing the sum of new directives from on high. Those things need to be carefully considered as administrators shape strategies to comprise the system's long-range plan, "Beyond the Year 2000."

While streamlining the curriculum sounds extremely logical, as with many things the devil is in the details. For example, some programs targeted for criticism are vital parts of the learning experience even if they are not basic subjects. Classes in band and drama may seem like a frill to a math teacher, but for many students they are an essential part of their development and education. Likewise, some of the demands placed on teachers within the past decade fall under the heading of reform, which was necessary to ensure quality, and often equality. Officials need to take care that this latest effort doesn't turn into just the latest fad in education, turning-back-the-clock. After all, schoolroom fads are partly what got us here in the first place.

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