Invisible, unpaid, voluntary hours


2020/2021 has been a very challenging school year for educators. We’ve worked thousands of hours to make the school year work for our students. It was exhausting, working through weekends with few real breaks away from school tasks.

Thousands of teachers worked long, invisible, unpaid, voluntary hours.

Why did teachers work so hard? It was to ensure students had the best possible education during these very challenging times.

After 21+ years in teaching, I’ve learned a great deal about how my work is valued by boards of education and the Ontario government.

  •  Teachers are expected to work long hours with few supports and even larger class sizes.
  •  Teachers are directed, by their boards and ministries of education, to provide supports that are not directly linked to education such as being responsible for students’ well being and mental health. Teachers are expected to deal with students who have significant behaviour needs with few supports while teaching a class of students. Note that teachers are not trained mental health therapists.
  • Teachers’ time is taken up due to the underfunding of students’ needs, resulting in working through breaks and beyond school hours.

During Covid, teachers were expected to make their online and hybrid classrooms function well. Teachers were given few or no resources to run a virtual classroom with teachers using their own money to purchase technology and curriculum materials (I personally spent a great deal of my own money on student workbooks and technology in which I was not reimbursed.)

The challenges of teaching through Covid were downloaded to teachers as we were left to figure it out on our own. The lack of resources went beyond teaching materials as some teachers were given no planning time during their teaching online (part of the collective agreement.)

Of course, administration praised teachers for their work in one breath, then started asking teachers to do more. It is like asking someone to clean the house on their own time and then asking them to do the windows next!
Teaching in the hybrid model was the most taxing job I’ve had in my entire history of work in 40+ years. I had to attend to students in class, students online, technology and the lesson in which I was teaching. With the addition of behaviour management, my skills were so strained that I became ineffective.

Healthy relationships require limits. Teachers’ working conditions are becoming abusive. If these working conditions are sustained, my relationship with teaching needs to end.

Working long, invisible, unpaid, voluntary hours, I will not stay in an abusive relationship.

Collaboratively Yours,
Deborah Weston, PhD

Note: The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought unique and unprecedented challenges to teaching. ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that in-person instruction and learning in publicly-funded schools provides the best experience for learning, quality delivery and is the most equitable model for all students. In order to support educators during remote learning, several resources have been created to support members.