Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Truth About Teachers' Work Hours

Hey, look, my first post that isn't about academia!!

Although it is about education ... one of the topics I'm most interested in ... and sadly, one that I haven't been able to read, write, or think much about in the last few years while I dissertated, worked, and did all of the other things that were supposed to make me happy and get me a great job, but really just made me pretty miserable.

I just want to take a minute to address the common refrain that's been ringing lately from the media, conservative political types, and anti-union folks, regarding teachers.

Namely, the idea that teachers don't really work hard ... and specifically, that they have what amounts to a "part-time job," from 8:30 to 2:30 Monday thru Friday, with summers off.

The implication in that assertion, of course, is that teachers leave their classrooms at 2:30, and don't perform a single task related to their jobs after that. And that while they may drive their own kids to school in the morning, eat breakfast, etc., they certainly don't start working until the bell rings at 8:30AM.

Lazy, part-time workers, amirite?

Well, no. Let's play a little game I once played with my college-aged students. Let's make a list of tasks that teachers have to perform during a given school year.

Teaching classes (okay, that one's easy)
Preparing lesson plans
Taking attendance
Selecting or writing homework assignments
Selecting or writing exams
Grading homework assignments
Grading exams
Recording grades in gradebook and calculating cumulative grades
Parent-teacher conferences
Meeting with students
Departmental/school meetings

That's what I came up with off the top of my head, in terms of mandatory things that all teachers would have to do. No teacher can avoid grading exams, or avoid meeting with colleagues, etc.

But that list leaves off things that many teachers do ... supervising student groups, coaching sports teams, copying materials, setting up field trips or classroom activities, supervising detentions or other punishments, tutoring students, etc.

But, okay, let's look at the original list. Assuming a teacher is in class all day between 8:30 and 2:30 ... how many of those eleven tasks can be performed between the hours of 8:30 and 2:30? Can a teacher teach a class and also write his or her next lesson plan at the same time? Can they lead a class discussion while grading exams at the same time?

I don't think so.

Even if they are lucky enough to have a free period - how many student assignments do you think that teachers can grade in an hour or so? I suppose that if it's a quick multiple-choice worksheet, probably quite a few. But if it's writing assignments? Not even a full class's worth. I guarantee it.

Believe me ... I taught one class at a time, to college students, who weren't even given homework on a daily basis and who only took two exams per year. But each hour that I was in the classroom took me hours to prepare. And each assignment that I gave them took hours to grade. Longer, if it was a long or particularly detailed writing assignment.

I taught one class, two days a week, to 70 students per semester. And I would estimate that I spent a solid 20 hours per week prepping, teaching, and grading for that one class. And keep in mind, I only had to be physically in the classroom for 3-4 hours per week, so I could have done those extra 15-17 hours per week during my normal work day. Let's say, perhaps, between 8:30 and 2:30, leaving my evenings free.

K-12 teachers? Not so much. That extra work is going to be done before 8:30 or after 2:30, or on the weekend. It's just not physically possible to do it any other way.

Make no mistake. Anyone who says teachers only work 30 hours weeks, 9 months a year, is lying. Even the worst teacher in the entire world still needs to grade papers. Even the worst teachers need to work more than 6 hours per day.

Teachers do not work part-time.

1 comment:

  1. The 2 Year Life of the MindNovember 17, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Thank you for posting this JC. I wish other people would see the profession this way. I taught both high school and community college classes and the K-12 teachers work FAR HARDER than I do at the CC. Don't get me wrong, I still work hard, but K-12 teachers have more work, more deadlines, and classroom management along with laws, administrators, and parents to deal with. The job was 6 days/50 hours, hands down.