This time of year always brings about discussion among faculty regarding the current "hot" topics at their respective schools with regard to "duties", as it is generally a prelude to contract talks, job changes, and that overall sense of spring renewal. So, with faculty members working hard in a total institution where the lines of personal life and work life are blurred, the topic of equity always comes up. "Am I doing more than he/she is?" "Why doesn't he/she do X or Y?" "My workload is so much heavier than his/hers." These questions and statements can have a truly negative impact on faculty culture in boarding schools, especially at a challenging time of year given compressed schedules, lack of daylight, bad weather, and the winter "blahs." However, they can also act as discussion starters regarding duty assignments and what schools are asking of faculty members.
Let me be clear, there is no such thing as "equal load" in boarding schools. Some schools try to quantify duty via points systems. I do not see this as a valid solution, as it tends to create a sense of competition and critique among faculty which breeds the exact mindsets schools are trying to avoid. Organizations like boarding schools are fluid, in that events occur and needs arise that fall outside of anyone's plans. Measuring a job based on perceived value via adding up points detracts from the very spirit of servant leadership and cohesive community feel. As well, practical issues come into play regarding what constitutes a "point" or half point" when we start asking questions about class size, class makeup, individual students in given class/dorm/team, playing schedule, tech week, etc. A larger class may mean more grading, but a small class with challenging students may mean more work. As well, coaches may see theater as an easier option, but may not truly understand what it means to produce a high-quality play. Dorms, as well, are varied communities with different challenges and populations from year to year. Advisee groups are another area where the point system falls short. Some years an advisee group may be smooth sailing and a joyous part of a faculty member's day. Other years, events may transpire that test the advisor's ability, patience, and energy. Trying to tie a "point" to each assigned duty misses the highly nuanced reality of working with young people in a residential environment.
Building a faculty culture that sees each and every duty as integral to the success of the community is challenging, but something that fits well with the overarching ethos of boarding schools. This starts with reinforcing the "we are all in this together" mentality that most triple-threat educators embrace. Being clear that each role is important and that the common goal is educating and caring for the young people entrusted to us must be reinforced often. Maximizing faculty talent, in other words, letting teachers focus on strengths is a good way to build this culture as well as cut down on faculty attrition and burnout. It may mean what appears to be a less equal load on the surface is actually far more equitable, meaningful, and impactful. The "rule of 7" comes to mind as a flexible model that allows for the strengths of faculty members to be the focus while still meeting the needs of the schools and the students. Yes, it takes more work with regard to assigning duties, hiring, and building the overall "matrix", but it sets the balnce between attempting to quantify duty loads and being realistic about what schools ask of faculty members.
As we enter hiring season, it may be worth looking at not only what schools ask faculty members to do, but how schools assign value to each role.