The words of economist Thomas Sowell have formed the basis of many of my introductory economics lessons over the past 12 years: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”
As a new school year begins for many, I am certain that my fellow economics teachers have planned engaging tasks for students, encouraging them to consider what economics is really about – limited resources versus unlimited wants – as opposed to the premise that the subject is solely. about money, as many eager Year 10s might suggest during their first lesson.
This year, however, I encourage all teachers to think about this: there are no solutions, only trade-offs.
A defeatist tone serves no one well
The Facebook group “Life After Teaching – Exit the Classroom and Thrive” first caught my attention earlier this year and, in recent months, the group has appeared to gain traction, with one member grilling Nadhim Zahawi on LBC, and one of the group administrators. being interviewed on a BBC platform. The group exists to support teachers in leaving the profession.
I see it as utterly depressing that so many dedicated professionals feel they are being driven out of education owing to poor working conditions and an unhealthy work-life balance.
As we enter a new post-pandemic school year, alongside the appointment of a new education secretary, I naively expected a greater air of optimism. However, the tone among many educators remains defeatist.
It appears that the unhealthy and unrealistic demands put on teachers are not unique to the profession itself.
A wealth of data suggests that it is not only teachers who are forced to choose between dedicating countless hours working simply to keep up with the demands, versus spending time with their own families as well as other commitments.
One set of research conducted last year by NordVPNTeams found UK employees increased their working week by 25 per cent following to the switch to home working.
Another survey has also found 44 per cent of UK employees reported being expected to do more work following the switch. As we know, many professions have not seen employees return to the office full-time and home working seems to be here to stay.
The finite resource of time
Family dynamics have also changed. According to the Office for National Statistics, since 2020, the most common working arrangement has shifted to both parents working full-time, and this is now the case for nearly three-quarters of families. Prior to 2020, the most common arrangement was for one partner to work full-time and the other to work part-time.
This is, undoubtedly, placing increased pressures on individuals and families. We continue to hear about “the new normal” post-Covid and, unfortunately, these factors are now influencing our everyday life and wellbeing.
The concept of limited resources and unlimited wants goes far beyond an introductory economics lesson. Of course, there are limited budgets within schools but, as teachers, our time is also limited while the demands on our time seem infinite.
With the continuous growth in technology and the increasing expectation for employees to be available at home, outside of their traditional working environment, the onus is now on employees to set firm boundaries.
The crux of the first lesson in economics is that we all have choices to make. It is sad to see that so many teachers feel they have no choice but to leave the profession. The National Education Union found that 44 per cent of teachers would be looking to leave the profession by 2027, primarily due to increasing workloads.
We must put ourselves first
These sentiments are shared throughout various industries, with Slack reporting that nearly a third of UK workers are seeking to change profession later this year. We now must choose to prioritise our own wellbeing.
Perhaps saying that there are no solutions might be a little pessimistic. However, there are certainly no immediate solutions to the overall burnout that professionals are feeling.
So far, not much has been said regarding education secretary Kit Malthouse’s intentions for schools and teachers but, as the new school year begins, it is vital that, as professionals, we set our own intentions to ensure that we do not trade off our own. wellbeing at the expense of a never-ending to do list.
Clare Keogh is a secondary school economics teacher