As children return to schools across the country, the outlook for teachers is bleak.
The spread of Omicron will make chronic staff shortages worse and has added to teachers' responsibilities. They must now be COVID wardens, while supporting the many students whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic – not to mention teachers' concerns for their own health.
Teachers said their workloads were "massive". Their work-life balance was "less than ideal or non-existent". They felt "overworked, burnt out and undervalued".
Teachers are increasingly dissatisfied with the unreasonable demands created by their work conditions.
A typical week includes piles of marking, planning learning for an increasingly diverse student cohort and responding to parent emails and phone calls, which can take hours.
Administrative and compliance tasks also consume teachers' time. They must collect, analyse and report on student performance data. They are expected to document all student misbehaviour, welfare and well-being concerns as they struggle to keep their classrooms safe, inclusive and enjoyable places to learn.
Then there are the endless meetings, staff briefings and professional development, while delivering an over-prescriptive and crowded curriculum so students meet national achievement standards.
One teacher in Perth told us:
"The expectations are impossible to live up to. We want to help our students and do all that is asked of us but often I face hostility and distrust from students and their parents or carers.
"After teaching for over 15 years this all has a cumulative effect. I’ve struggled with feelings of disillusionment and burnout. Sometimes I think that my well-being goes unnoticed or is dismissed as unimportant."
One of us wrote last year about the emotional labour of teachers who have to manage, suppress or feign their emotions as part of their work. They "put on a brave face" and ignore their emotions to get through the daily ups and downs of school life. But it can be exhausting.