Instructor Well-being

Instructor Well-being

Teaching is a rewarding and demanding career that requires juggling multiple responsibilities and timelines. In supporting student learning and managing classroom dynamics instructors invest a significant amount of time moderating their own emotions in order to care for and attend to the emotions and needs of others (Harvey, 2022).  This emotional labour is gendered and racialized and correlated with faculty burnout (Miller, Howell, and Struve, 2019). Additionally due to the pandemic, faculty are experiencing increasing workloads exacerbating existing inequities (American Council on Education, 2022). Prioritizing your own well-being is not only beneficial for you but also enhances your ability to provide quality education and support to your students.

Strategies to Make Teaching Manageable

  1. Ask for Teaching Resources: You don’t have to re-invent the wheel when teaching a new course or redesigning an existing one. Ask colleagues to share course materials such as lesson plans, rubrics and feedback strategies. Instructors are happy to share what has worked well for them.
  2. Establish Peer Support Networks: Connect with colleagues to share experiences, discuss challenges, and exchange ideas. Engaging with peers who can relate to your experiences can help reduce stress. The Centre for Educational Excellence can help partner instructors.
  3. Think Strategically About Assignment Deadlines: Student questions often amplify near assignment deadlines. Think about whether you prefer answer questions on specific day, such as a Thursday, rather than on weekends or other designated time off.
  4. Streamline Assignments: Review your learning outcomes and determine which assignments are essential to demonstrate learning. Instead of having numerous small assignments, consider scaffolding larger assignments into smaller component parts that build upon each other.
  5. Use Rubrics: Detailed rubrics not only provide valuable feedback to students but also clarify student understand of what is required and reduce the number of student questions about expectations.
  6. Schedule Teaching Preparation and Grading time: Create a  semester schedule that builds in dedicated time for lecture preparation and grading. Align these time blocks with assignment due dates to ensure efficient management of workload. Add these time slots to your calendar as non-negotiable commitments.
  7. Concentrate Feedback Where Needed: Not every assigned requires detailed feedback. Selectively choose assignments that warrant comprehensive feedback while other assignments can be graded without extensive comments. Consider utilizing peer and self-assessment to support student learning.
  8. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and expectations for when you will respond to student emails. Setting up times at the beginning or end of the days helps to ensure that emailing doesn’t take away from other priorities of the day.
  9. Share Your Answers to Selected Student Questions With the Whole Class: Ask students to post questions about course content, assignments, exams and logistiscs on a Canvas Discussion board or other dedicated online discussion space instead of emailing them to you. It is likely that ten other students have the same question and you will save time if you can respond to the whole group. Reserve office hours and email for discussion of confidential issues and individual questions.
  10. Invest Time in Training Your TAs: Providing TAs with clear marking and facilitation instructions, sample A, B, C papers, or holding a group marking session saves significant amount of time, reduces uncertainty and grade complaints later on in the term.
  11. Manage the Volume and Workflow of Reference Letters: Create a draft letter and ask students to add in details such as the name of the institution, program or role they are applying to. Ask students to draft highlights of their achievement they would like you to address in your letter. Feel free to say no to reference letters for students whose work you do not know well. Offer a generic, pdf reference letter the student can use for future applications.

Further Reading 

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