Teachers deal with intense workload as a result of budget cut

Arriving at seven in the morning, and leaving around five, English teacher Mr. Tom Backen, like many teachers at BSM, clocks in at least ten hours each day at school. And while this may seem reasonable, the emotional impact, not to mention three additional hours of preparation after school just add to the physical toll being placed on teachers with the increased teacher workload decision last year.

One of the most recognizable changes in policy has been the increase in the number of classes each teacher is required to teach every semester, switching from five each semester to five one and six the other. “Now we don’t have a choice, it’s just a requirement to teach the sixth class,” art teacher Ms. Kristi Main said.

Facing the consequences of last year’s budget cuts has been difficult for many among the BSM faculty and staff. Cutting $750,000 from last years budget, making staff cuts, and forcing teachers to take on an increased workload are some of the challenges being coped with this year.

While there are financial woes that must be dealt with, the impacts of the decision are widespread and devastating, and will be felt for some time to come. “The 6-5 workload is just simply too much––the whole situation was incredibly difficult to cope with, and continues to be difficult to deal with. I think we have financial realities that we’re all aware of, but I think we need to look at other ways around it,” English teacher Mrs. Maura Brew said.

One extra class may seem like a small price to pay for teachers, but there is a hidden toll that this extra work brings with it. “It’s amazing how going from teaching 5 to 6 does really take that much of a toll on you both mentally and physically. By the end of the day it’s just exhausting,” Ms. Main said.

Art teacher Ms. Main is one of the many teachers who have been negatively impacted by increased class-loads. (meghan ortizcazarin)

The adversity of this year’s schedule is surprisingly unseen by much of the BSM community, but nonetheless, its impacts are palpable. “I’ve noticed a lot of my colleagues extremely stressed, in a way that students will not see, because they are constant professionals, but they are stressed,” Mrs. Brew said.

This extra challenge is one that results in direct consequences for not only teachers, but students as well. “We’ve got people who are overloaded right now, and who are struggling to maintain the level and the degree of their teaching and curriculum––it’s a real struggle––but I think that we’re extremely lucky that across the board the faculty are doing whatever it takes to try and maintain that standard,” Mrs. Brew said.

One extra class brings with it an increased workload with more students, parents, and grading. “It’s a huge difference in the amount of work, just because with the extra class you also have more preps––it’s the extra bit of work. It would be like saying you have five papers to write, but everytime I say there’s five, there’s a sixth––it’s the extra chunk,” Ms. Main said.

Facing these additional requirements, teachers are not compensated for the extra workload or increased stress. “You can’t even fathom that people are not being compensated for working more than they’ve ever had to,” math teacher Mrs. Mary Seppala said.

The fact that you have taken a solid community, and broken that, because you broke people’s trust and lost their respect, as a whole was damaging.

— Ms. Main

The previous role that teachers played in the community was instrumental in creating the spirit of BSM, but many now feel unable to take on extra tasks due to the distrust and increased stress of the changes. “There are little things that some teacher might have taken on in the past, which are no longer a paid position anymore. Or, we simply don’t have the time to take on anymore. When you were compensated you could at least justify it, I’m spending this time, but at least it’s sort of worth it––something has to give, because we’re already doing so much,” Mrs. Seppala said.

As a result of the reduced ability to take on extra tasks, many feel as though the extremely tightly woven BSM community has begun to fray. “The fact that you have taken a solid community, and broken that, because you broke people’s trust and lost their respect, as a whole was damaging,” Ms. Main said.

With the changes in the teaching load there is the threat that some teachers will decide to leave BSM, yet the historically tight-knit group of teachers at Benilde-St. Margaret’s hope that this isn’t the case. “At a public school you would be teaching fewer classes and making a lot more money. What’s keeping people here is the culture of the teachers, and the students. There’s a worry that if it gets to be too much that people might leave, and we don’t want that because everyone here is a really good teacher, and we don’t want to see teachers like that leave because it’s too much,” Mrs. Seppala said.