Not Enough Time: TELL AZ Survey Results Speak Loudly to Me

Whew! Almost two months have flown by amidst the fast-paced, back-to-school whirlwind. It feels like the 2016-17 school year is history now, but there’s one thing that keeps itching at me from the past: The results from the 2017 TELL AZ Survey that was conducted in April.

For those who’ve already archived their memories from last year, the TELL AZ survey explored teacher satisfaction with working conditions in eight areas: Use of time, community support & involvement, facilities & resources, managing student conduct, teacher leadership, school leadership, professional development, and instructional practices & support. Thirty-one percent of Arizona teachers responded to the survey.

In June, the TELL AZ website published statewide results as well as site-specific reports for schools and districts with qualifying response rates. To give a quick overview of the statewide findings about teacher satisfaction in the eight areas, here’s a snapshot:

During a panel discussion about the results this summer, I was interested when an attendee remarked that, “Arizona teachers seem pretty happy with their overall working conditions.” This comment has been haunting me all summer. When I look at this data, I see a huge problem: Use of time.

Use of time may not seem like a big deal to someone outside the classroom, but these findings speak loudly to me as an Arizona teacher. I constantly struggle with work-life balance because there is not enough time in my paid workday to accomplish my professional responsibilities. Even though I’m happy in other areas of my work life, the enormous workload makes me rethink my profession from time to time. Conversations about workload are common in all my teaching circles. Many educators in Arizona work far beyond their contract hours. Here are the statewide responses to the Use of time questions (courtesy of the TELL AZ website):

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Note: Percentages reported include teachers who responded “Strongly Agree” or “Agree.”

Looking at this data indicates many Arizona teachers have inadequate time for professional responsibilities. Perhaps this is especially troubling for the types of individuals who choose teaching as a profession. Almost every teacher I have known has family-oriented values and deep commitments to their own children. In my opinion, these are the exact people we should be attracting to the profession! However, I wonder if this same personality type becomes dissatisfied and disillusioned when their teacher workload directly conflicts with their family values. Speaking from my own experience, my dissatisfaction with the workload increased dramatically when my first child was born. Staying late at work and working at home feels like failure now because I feel like I should be “on top of things” by this stage of my career. In fact, I think the evolving perspectives about Use of time show in the TELL AZ results that were disaggregated by years of teaching experience. The top three graphs in this figure below (courtesy of New Teacher Center) show how Use of Time responses differ between beginning teachers and veteran teachers.


It seems that veteran are less satisfied with the time available than beginning teachers. This graph really interested me because it reflects my own teaching perspectives and comments I hear in the field. When I started teaching, the workload was crushing, but I was driven by a belief that it would get better. In my experience, it’s better but still crushing. Last year, a colleague told me that a new teacher had asked her if the workload gets better and she had told her (kindly) that it really doesn’t. Could the problems with Use of Time be a really big factor in teachers leaving the profession after about three years? Perhaps the types of individuals who are attracted to teaching desire manageable jobs and feel unsatisfied by the teaching workload. I’m drawing some conclusions here, but they are related to my own professional experiences and feelings of workplace satisfaction. I’m curious about how these ideas ring true for other educators. How do our feelings about Use of time affect our overall job satisfaction as teachers in Arizona?

As Arizona policymakers and education advocates consider the TELL AZ data, I hope they will think deeply about how Use of time could improve for teachers in Arizona. Over the summer, I had a real teacher vacation: A position that gave me enough time to get my work done during the workday. Wanna know a secret? I was really, really happy. I enjoyed my time at work, I was surrounded by unstressed colleagues, and I had plenty of time and energy in the evenings. I haven’t had a night like that since we went back to school in August. I think that there are rich teacher stories related to the Use of time aspects of the TELL AZ survey—and I would love to hear your perspectives in the comments below!

For more analysis and discussion about the TELL AZ survey, check out this article on AZED News.

*The TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) survey was designed by the New Teacher Center and sponsored in Arizona by organizations including AZK12 Center, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Education Foundation, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, and Arizona School Boards Association.

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Jess Ledbetter

Dr. Jess Ledbetter teaches preschool students with developmental delays in a Title I school in Glendale, Arizona. She is a National Board Certified Teacher (ENS-ECYA), an Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Alumni, and a Candidate Support Provider for teachers seeking their National Board Certification. She earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation at ASU in 2016. Her mixed methods research used a Communities of Practice model as a strategy for early career special education teachers to collaborate with peers to increase their team leadership skills working with paraeducators in their individual classrooms.

Dr. Ledbetter is guided by the belief that all teachers are leaders in their classrooms and possess the skills to be leaders within their schools, districts, communities, and greater context. She hopes you will contribute to the dialogue by leaving comments about your own experiences, opinions, and insights so that real-life stories from our schools can inform the policies that affect students, teachers, and their communities.

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