How Much Teachers Actually Work: A Not-So-Formal Case Study

This post was originally published on Pass the Chalk.

A Time Clock
(Photo: Flickr)

I’ve always wondered how much I work a week as a teacher. Last week, I sat down with six other teachers (at different schools, different grade levels, etc.) and asked them to track their hours worked.

Two things shocked me.

First, out of the seven teachers surveyed, we spend only 42% of our time actually delivering content to students. That other 58% of the time is devoted to conferences, miscellaneous tasks, lesson planning, meetings, PD, and tracking (in that order).

Second, teachers across content areas, school types, and school populations all worked far above 40 hours. The teacher in my (white, mostly middle-class) hometown? Seventy-four hours. The teacher at an extended-day charter school? Seventy-two.

This definitely isn’t a comparison game of “who works harder” or “who’s more stretched,” but it serves as a reminder that teachers pretty much everywhere are putting in many, many hours.

There are plenty of things that could provide teachers with less workload. Most of these rely on districts, states, or federal policy to change. That’s honestly unlikely.

I’ve tried taking things into my own hands. For me, the first huge work-life balance measure has been focusing on efficiency. I’ve saved my co-teacher and myself about four hours a week simply by using a spiffy program that grades our quizzes for us. I also use action planning to prioritize all time throughout the day (shout out, Together Teacher!)

What’s sad, though, is that I cannot think of another profession where one has to be so proactive, creative, and committed to making their profession sustainable (and for such low pay). Next time you enter (or send your kiddo) into the classroom, you may want to swap out the apple for 5-Hour Energy. Your teacher probably needs it.

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