The dilemma of too much paper work in teaching

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Fed up with an endless stream of paperwork they say takes time away from students, frustrated teachers this week went looking for help. They want early-dismissal days for students so teachers can spend some afternoons filling out forms and planning lessons. And they want the district to look at ways to slow the paper flow.

Teachers have been singing the paperwork blues for years. But they said the problem has become unbearable this year, mostly because of new state rules on tracking students’ progress and holding schools more accountable.

What happens when paperwork starts to crowd out time with students? Is there a way to streamline the forms that can take over a teacher’s life? Educator Brenda Dyck has found online tools that help her reduce paperwork and give her more time to teach, including practical web sites designed to save teachers time.

They say a teacher will never forget his or her first class. That must be true because 28 years later, I still can picture those students’ faces. I can still recite many of their names and recall many moments of learning that we shared. It is also amazing to me that, after all these years, the call in my heart to teach is as fresh as it was when I met that first class in 1974. I am as excited now as I was then when my instruction and my students’ understanding collide! Sadly, however, I get a sense that now an intruder threatens to sap my passion. I worry that the intruder might prevent me from putting as much energy as I can into creating lessons that energize me and engage my students. That intruder is paperwork. It seems to me that paperwork has slowly crept into my daily life at school — and now threatens to overwhelm it. With its roots firmly planted in the soil of accountability, I find I am spending more time than ever filling out forms in order to fulfill expectations from all levels of administration. Sometimes the weight of that paperwork is unbearable. Recently, I talked with a group of teachers about the mind-boggling mountain of paperwork that comes our way. These teachers came up with more than 75 ways that paperwork intrudes on their lives. With all that paperwork, I wonder how teachers find the time to teach! Thankfully, a handful of free online tools have come to my rescue. Those tools have helped streamline some of the most tedious paperwork tasks that get in the way of one-on-one time with my students. They have helped me bury some of the paperwork. They have helped me focus on my “soul mission” — connecting with my students. Best of all, those tools enhance my instruction time by helping students reflect, organize, and think in new ways.

Teachers in such schools were responsible for completing more than a dozen different forms, evaluations, assessments and reports that came variously from the levels of district, city, state and federal government, and grading standardized tests. Teachers snapped pictures of piles of paper and They also conducted an informal survey, which showed some teachers spend an average of 471/2 hours per month “beyond their duty day” dealing with paperwork.

By Merilyn Sangdaan

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