Friday, June 15, 2012

Teachers' Work Schedules

This post comments about the following article and revises some of the material I posted in response to it on Facebook.

The above article, which is from England, has recently been making the rounds on Facebook. My nephew commented and wanted to know if, in my experience, it also applied to teachers in the United States. The article claims an average of 48.3 hours per week for teachers in England. I told him that the teachers I know personally all worked at least that much. My own schedule, in one of my full time jobs was something like this: 7 to 5 at school, M-F. Sat and Sun 4 to 6 hours each. I had to do a lot of the work at school, because I managed the computer lab and all of the computers in the school, in addition to preparing and grading 34 different lessons each week.

I don't know the statistics for K-12 teachers in the US. It would be interesting to find out, though. I know a lot of teachers who put in much more than the 37.5 (or close to that) hours a week that they are nominally contracted to work.

I recently subbed in a class, where the teacher mistakenly entered the work order for a full day, but only needed a half day. So, I ended up in the teacher's lounge for a substantial time, waiting, in case they found something else they needed me to do (sorting the mail was one task I was given). The teachers were discussing the latest round of negotiations with the school board. They were completely fed up with the extra hours, over and above the negotiated work week that they were putting in. They were at the point of resolving, for the next school year, to work only the amount of school hours they were nominally responsible for. They were concerned that it would be hard on the students - to not have extra tutoring time, extra parent conferences, not as much feedback on submitted work, but they reasoned that, in the long run, it was the only way for the public to realize that the services they were getting were so much over and above what they think the teachers are doing.

Imagine for a minute, if it were thought that the only time a lawyer was working was during the time spent in court or the time spent with clients. Or, the only work that a doctor actually could claim was the few minutes spent in direct contact with patients. Teachers are generally in direct contact with students for at least 300 minutes per day. Virtually all of the prep work, the grading, the record keeping, meeting with administration, fellow teachers, and parents takes place outside of the direct contact time. Many professions require a great deal of "behind the scenes" work. Teaching is no exception, but this is rarely considered when talking about teachers' schedules. Teachers are typically allotted 30 to 60 minutes per day to deal with planning, grading, preparing materials, cleaning up, meeting with parents, other teachers, and administrators, record keeping, learning to use new technology, dealing with new curricula, and so on.

Just a brief example. A 6th grade teacher might know that the curriculum specifies studying about Ancient Egypt. There is a textbook, but reading the lesson and answering the questions at the end of the chapter isn't the engaging project that parents and administrators want to see. The teacher can develop her own projects, which takes time; or the teacher can search the Internet for interesting sites to visit or interesting projects to do. Try it. Try searching the Internet for relevant, appropriate, and interesting material, checking out the entire site to make sure it is OK for your students. Make sure that the project covers all of the standards and content you are responsible for. If you can do it successfully in the 30 minutes that is allotted for planning time, congratulations. Now do it for math, science, reading, spelling, writing, and possibly art as well. So, maybe those projects can last a whole week.  You still have to develop the grading rubric, write and print the instructions for the students, and perhaps write a note to parents about the projects. Now make those projects all relevant to kids whose abilities range from second grade reading levels to ninth grade reading levels. Modify each of the lessons so that both your students with learning difficulties and that gifted student have challenging things to work on for each of those lessons. Now try individualizing the curriculum for all 30 students in your class.

You can't do that in 30 minutes a day??? You must not care about your students.


1 comment:

  1. And the trend now, at least here in NJ, is to hire teachers at 4/5 time so the districts do not have to pay for their families' health benefits. Teaching really is not a profession one could raise a family on. For us my salary functions as a second income. But hey - this isn't the 1940s. The pink collar ghetto includes the teaching profession.