“I want to be a teacher because I love sitting in seemingly unnecessary meetings and completing piles of paperwork,” said no teacher ever. It turns out teacher duties encompass much more than just teaching. Most of us became teachers for similar reasons – no, it’s not summers “off.” We became teachers because we love kids. We love our subject areas. We love to see kids get excited about learning. These things are food for our souls. We went into this profession because we wanted to make a real difference in the world.

But the reality is that far too much of our time is taken up by things that have nothing to do with the reasons we became teachers. Paperwork, meetings, emails and other tedious teacher duties that take up all our time – and our joy. Below is a list of just some of the extra responsibilities we have, along with the unscientific estimated percentage of the workday that each of these things consumes.

1. Meetings that could have easily been an email -10%

At least half of all meetings could probably have been a short email. The other half could be kept to under half an hour. Instead, we sit through hours of Mrs. Jones voicing her concerns and asking questions that don’t apply to anyone else.

2. Piles of paperwork- 7%

There are attendance rosters, and weekly attendance verification sheets, and parent contact logs, and behavior reports, and IEP surveys and progress reports, and grade verification forms, and weekly grade checks for athletes. And if we counted how much time we spend “off the clock” completing these administrative tasks, then the percentage would probably be closer to 10%.

3. Reading and answering emails – 3%

(And deleting emails from people who clicked “reply all” instead of “reply.” Seriously, ya’ll. Stop it.)

There are emails from colleagues, administrators, parents, and students; all of which require a response within 24 hours. We’d be happy to bump up that percentage in order to skip some unnecessary meetings.

4. Lesson Planning – 15%

Next to actually delivering our lessons and interacting with students and watching them have their own “aha” moments, lesson planning is probably one of our favorite parts of teaching. It’s when we get to create and plan and research and learn new things ourselves. Yes, this is an enjoyable and even rewarding experience, but there is only so much that can be done during our prep periods. Most of the time we spend creating those wonderful lessons is “off the clock” time that we could be enjoying with our family or friends or by ourselves with a good book.

5. Preparing for, proctoring, and analyzing the results of standardized tests – 15%

We have state testing in the spring, which eats up a week or two of classroom time. But we also have quarterly benchmark assessments mandated by the district to track progress. And then there are common assessments that we give as grade-level teachers. So not only do we take up precious instructional time giving our students all these assessments, but we also have to use our own time to analyze the data and create targeted lessons to help fill in gaps in students’ learning.

6. Grading – 10%

Grading is like the mythical Hydra; when you have finished grading one assignment, two more appear in its place. 

7. All the other little things… fire drills, PA announcements, troubleshooting technology, covering a colleague’s class, assemblies, pep rallies, and phone calls from the office – 10%

It’s no small miracle that we can get anything meaningful accomplished during the school day with all these other interruptions.

Wow! Those tedious teacher duties add up to 70%. Over half of a teacher’s school day is spent on tasks other than teaching. In order to be as present as possible with our students, and you know, actually, teach them, we often use our own time to get things done. We come in early, stay late, work through lunch – and yes, take work home.

But the thing is, we do it all without (much) complaint. Because the other 30%? That’s the stuff that drew us to teaching in the first place. We put up with all the tedious, annoying parts of the job because we love teaching. And if experiencing those moments when our students learn something new means spending time signing off on attendance forms or sitting through a boring meeting, it’s well worth it.

I Became a Teacher for the Kids, But All the Extras Stop Me From Actually Teaching