“Teachers have it easy!”
“Teachers get all summer off!”
“Teachers only work until 3:00 pm every day!”
These are sentiments that get shouted from the rooftops by anyone who doesn’t buy into the reality that teachers are grossly underpaid and overworked. Every teacher has heard these words, in some form or another, many times over. On the surface, it appears to have some truth to it. Yes, teachers aren’t in their classrooms teaching during the summer months (well, some aren’t), and yes the average school day is, in fact, shorter than the typical American workday. So, teachers aren’t overworked at all right?
Not so fast my friend.
1. The Typical Work Day
Depending on what state you live in and what your particular district rules are, the average school day is anywhere from 6 to 8 hours long. So for the sake of argument let’s split the difference and say teachers work 7 hours a day. A normal person would point out here that teachers get roughly 30 minutes a day to eat lunch, but a normal teacher would counter that argument by saying every lunch is a working lunch when you’re a teacher. Your lunch and planning time are spent furiously lesson planning, grading, and meeting with fellow teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page. I know teachers that haven’t had 30 minutes to themselves in their entire careers.
So 7 hours a day right? Wrong! Teachers need to arrive at work before classes actually start and stay after school, as well. This time is spent herding children where they need to go, making sure everyone arrives and leaves school safely, preparing their classroom for the day, and of course the always enjoyable staff meeting. This adds an extra hour or more to the day, bringing their total to 8-9 hours per day.
Teachers also routinely take work home with them, far more than the average American in fact. Teachers will grade papers, lesson plan, call or email parents and do other teacher-related work. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that over 30% of teachers take work home every day. On average, teachers do another 1-2 hours of work either before they arrive in the morning or after they leave in the afternoon, leaving them with roughly a 10-11-hour work day.
From an outside point of view, this seems like simple math. 10 hours a day times 180 school days a year equals 1,800 hours a year, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
2. The Typical School Weekend
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a study recently that found that teachers are more likely to put in work over the weekend than the average American. In fact, the average teacher brings an additional 2-3 hours of work home with them at the end of each school week. Most schools are in session for roughly 36 weeks a year, so that adds an extra 100 or so hours onto a teacher’s yearly workload bringing us up over 1900 hours a year.
3. Summer Months and Vacation Days
One of the common misconceptions most people have is that if school is not in session, teachers aren’t working. Teachers report back to school 1 to 2 weeks before the official “1st day”, plus there are a few days during the year that teachers work when students aren’t there. Conservatively, that’s an extra 10 days of work at around 8 hours a day. That’s another 80 work hours – bringing the total up to around 2,000 hours per year.
There are also teachers who spend numerous hours during the summer months taking classes for professional development, planning out the year ahead, and making sure their classrooms are ready to go when students return in the fall.
4. How Teachers Measure Up with Other Professions
As you see by these rough estimates, teachers are putting in close well over 2,000 hours a year, depending on their situation. How does that measure up with other professions? Well, according to the Pew Research Center, the average American only works about 1,811 hours a year. Factor in the thousands of teachers that need to take on a 2nd or 3rd job just to pay the bills and the number of hours teachers work throughout the year is off the charts. It’s a staggering mathematical exercise and one that doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon.
Still think teachers are underworked?