Roopa Vinayak Ram
Time theft is a major challenge faced by employers across industries. A school is no exception. Yes, it may be hard to believe as many feel that the school is a temple of learning and teachers are God’s gift to mankind. Many of us have an idealistic view of how a teacher should be. We forget that a teacher can also be susceptible to human fallibility. It is this idealistic perception which makes us believe that a teacher can do no wrong or that she/he is above everything.
However, the reality is quite different. Time theft is slowly becoming a major challenge in schools.
Now let’s make an effort to understand what constitutes time theft and how the issue can be resolved. The word “theft” is often associated with the act of stealing things which are precious and belong to someone else. In the context of a school, if a teacher is slacking or stealing time to do his/her personal work, ignoring her school work, well, you can say that she is guilty of time theft.
The nature of this problem is so complex that many refuse to accept it as an issue. There are times when teachers feel that they are entitled to some “me time” in the school. They may feel that catching up on their half done personal errands or talking to their near and dear ones for some time is no big deal. You might also hear an argument that it is their free time or non-teaching hours which they are utilizing to take care of their personal needs. With this thought in mind, teachers conveniently forget that they are being paid for all this so-called idle time or non-teaching hours.
The best way to resolve this is to sensitize teachers about the issue and make them realize that it’s something that is unacceptable. This is the only sector where such issues go unnoticed and unaddressed. In other industries or organizations, time theft can be detected easily and it is hard to escape the eyes of the employers. While it is challenging to define how teachers should utilize their non-teaching hours, it is equally daunting to tackle a teacher who steals her teaching/non-teaching hours for some “me time” or to happily gallivant with her time-stealing colleagues. It is not surprising when the same teachers stay back well beyond school hours to show how hard they work or to cover up their inefficiencies.
Now let’s look at how this issue can be resolved:
Set expectations right: The best way to deal with this issue is to ensure that it does not happen at all. At the very beginning of the academic year, school authorities need to ensure that their expectations are clearly understood by the teachers. The consequences of not meeting the expectations of the school’s HR policy need to be communicated to teachers without mincing words. This in itself will provide a kind of guideline to a good number of teachers as to what is expected of them.
Teacher’s log book: A proper check and balance needs to be put in place to track the activities of teachers during school hours. There are cases where teachers royally walk in late to their classes keeping students waiting and wasting their precious productive hours. One can also see instances of teachers walking out of classrooms earlier than the scheduled time without any valid reason. Therefore, it makes sense to ask teachers to maintain a log book of their teaching time where the start time and end time of each class is clearly mentioned and this can be countersigned by a student representative. Some teachers may consider this as demeaning but this simple log book can go a long way in setting things right.
Plain speaking: One can always find teachers who are on the other side of the spectrum, thinking that a bit of cheating for few hours a day may go unnoticed. In such cases, normally, the resolution of the problem starts with sending a general circular to all the teachers of the school. There’s a possibility of these circulars being taken lightly by teachers. Then it’s time for the school management to take things seriously. They may have to call the errant teachers for a one-on-one meeting and let them know in clear terms that such behaviour is completely unacceptable.
Disciplinary procedures: Errant teachers who refuse to mend their ways in spite of warnings need to be punished with serious disciplinary procedures such as docking their pay or withholding their increments or in cases of “no chance” for redemption, they can be asked to leave the institution. These punitive measures might sound too harsh but there should not be any compromise in terms of imparting quality education to students.
The brunt of any slippage from the teacher’s end is borne by the helpless students who are the end users of a teacher’s service. Teachers are role models for students. A teacher who slacks in delivering her responsibilities can be a bad example for students to follow. And that is something which cannot be allowed to happen in a school as hundreds of students look up to their teachers.
The author is committed to creating a productive learning environment in schools and is an Accounts teacher at Deccan International School, Bengaluru. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.