Thoughts on Teacher Slavery

I recently attended a teacher development workshop. Well, maybe I should say one was brought to me at my school and I did not have a say in whether I want to attend or not because I was already there. Anyways, there was something the presenter said that I have been holding onto for a while now. He made a comment that made me question slavery and liberation in our modern and my teacher context.

Disclaimer: I am quite bothered by the fact that I literally cannot find where and from whom these words come from so that I may have context from the quoter as to when and why they said the following …

When you only do what is asked of you, you are a slave


Our presenter said this, I am almost certain he is quoting someone, but for some reason Google cannot tell me who, all I get is Bible verses about slavery and having a master.

Anyways, let me get to the man’s point. Slavery is only doing what your master tells you to do without the ability to think out of the box or do certain things in your own way or even do more. Liberation is doing more because you have the autonomy to think freely and be creative. Since this was a workshop for teachers, how this links is that a teacher who only does what is expected of them contractually is a slave. This is the teacher who leaves work on the hour of when school comes out because anything longer should be overtime and deserves payment. The teacher who does the bare minimum not to get fired (dismissed from work). The liberated teacher is the one who goes the extra mile. The teacher who drives initiatives and is willing to stay longer because they see the need, not asking for financial gain.

This is understandable, but also a difficult thing to think about. On one hand, just being a teacher, you are already doing what most dare to never do. We know that teaching is a noble profession that is also a great need now and in future as we experience a teacher shortage or a really poor teacher to learner ratio. On the other hand, how much of ourselves should we be giving willingly under the definition of liberation without credit being given in any form?

I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment, when it is expected of teachers to go the extra mile, to drive initiates for the good of their learners and the school overall, doesn’t that become the bare minimum expectation that a teacher is supposed to do, making them slaves? I would think they would only be liberated in the thought of being able to decide which initiative to drive but they have to drive something nonetheless.

I will admit, I am the teacher, who tries to go the extra mile. Ask my colleagues, we leave an hour or sometimes two after school has already ended. I am currently trying to do a maths drive of having learners want to participate in competitions and enjoy it. However, that is who I am, some say “over-achiever.” I say personal growth. Senior management and the presenter might say I am liberated. Should my season come to an end, or I feel overwhelmed and decide to go home on the hour, would I then be a slave?

I do not really want to be the person who points out which teacher does more or which teacher does less. People really do have their own autonomy to decide what it is they want contribute and in what way. As teachers we already know that this is a profession where we have to “work before work to get ready for work, then at work we don’t get work done so we have to work after work …” something like that. It takes a lot of energy to be a teacher, and people have varying energies to give to the profession and maybe age and experience contributes to that as well as varying home circumstances etc.

It felt weird hearing that I could be catagorised as either being a slave or being liberated. In the teaching profession, many are doing more and receiving close to nothing for it. In other professions all you have to do is claim overtime and without hesitation, you will be compensated. As human as we all are, most times being driven by incentive, why should a teacher at all times be the extra mile goer for no incentive? And why does that equate to slavery when they are not?

Personally, I wish every teacher could go the extra mile and be innovative at all times etc. but that does not mean I am against incentive as measured in other professions and that is not always monetary as long as value is seen and understood. A colleague of mine would say something about “free labour in this economy is not really sustainable.”

I really enjoy being a teacher and the work that I do. I make it my own and unique to me. I am just not sure about the slavery vs liberation part. There are probably more questions than anything here and I might not have any answers, I just want to be happy in what I need to do for me without too much comparison to others.

Thank you! Much love!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: