This has been a tumultuous year in the media for teachers. For every story where we heard about teachers advocating for more pay and better working conditions, there were legions of keyboard warriors stating that teachers have it easy and should stop complaining. It makes my blood boil!
However, my role as an educator is to, well, educate. Many people outside of the profession truly don’t understand the amount of teacher overtime most of my colleagues put in. So just how many hours are put into my year as a teacher? Despite my fear of math (I’m an English teacher, so that fear is ingrained in me), I thought I’d dive in and take a look at the numbers. This is based on a 39-week schedule, which aligns with most school schedules.
Hours in the Classroom Spent on Teaching: 1,170
Every school is different, but for the most part, teachers are in the classroom for about six hours a day. Personally, I have a 25-minute lunch, but this is usually spent with students as they make up work or use my classroom as a quiet space. I know this is true for most teachers, so for tracking purposes, I’m keeping it at the six hours a day.
To compare these hours with a private sector job, these 1,170 hours in a classroom are about roughly 29 working weeks for a typical 40-hour-a-week job.
But wait! There’s more!
Hours at School Spent on Planning, Prep, and Other Work: 450
There’s an old adage, “If you are five minutes early, you are already 10 minutes late.” This couldn’t ring any truer for teachers. Most contracts ask teachers to be in school five minutes before class begins. However if you ask any teacher who is in a classroom, they’ll likely tell you that if you don’t get to school an hour early, you can forget about being ready for the day.
There’s no way you’ll get access to the photocopier before it runs out of paper or, even worse, toner! Most teachers begin their day an hour before the students show up. This is the calm before the storm, when we can arrange desks, make copies, write out our boards, and have those last few precious, quiet moments.
At the “end” of the day, you’ll frequently see school parking lots full of cars anywhere from one to three hours after the final bell. Teachers are busy with after-school help, meetings, clubs, sports—the list is never-ending. For this estimate, I figure it’s between 300 and 600 extra hours, so we’ll go in the middle, 450 hours.
Hours Spent Working During School Vacations: 20
I’m not talking about summer vacation (yet). I’m just talking about the typical fall, winter, and spring breaks. You know those times where everyone assumes we teachers sit back and relax? Sure there is some of that, but the planning and grading doesn’t take a break during this time.
Most of the time, the days off can be seen as time to catch up with the ever-growing mound of papers. I’m going to put this at a nice round estimate of 20 hours spent working during breaks, though many of us know it’s a lot more!
Hours Spent Grading Outside of Classroom Time: 300
I love teaching. Grading? Not so much. There have been plenty of times when my family has found me pounding my head on my desk, asking why I assigned so many written assessments. (The bottom line is that it helps my students grow and become fully ready for college or career, but I digress.)
I did the math for this section, showed it to my husband, and then he laughed. He said my estimations were far too low. So I went back to the drawing board with his observations. Now I know this section can vary a great deal based on which grade or subject you teach, but I’m estimating that teachers spend between 5–10 hours a week on grading. My number is closer to between 500 and 600 hours because I’m an English teacher. But I’m going to keep this at 200 total hours for most teachers.
Hours Spent Planning Outside of Classroom Time: 120
I don’t like grading, but do I ever love planning! There’s nothing like a perfectly planned lesson.
I tend to save my planning to Sundays, and I spend a few hours on it each week. I can imagine that the subject, grade, or place you teach might affect these hours as well. If you’re a kindergarten teacher, for instance, you might spend 300 hours planning versus 100 grading. But let’s average this at about three hours a week for most teachers, making it another 120 hours for the year.
Hours Spent on Summer PD: 100
All my nonteacher friends ask me all summer, “Are you enjoying your time off?” As nice as it is to have stretches of availability during the summer months, there’s a lot of PD rolled into there as well. This summer, I’ve been up to my neck in PD and trainings.
I think I missed the memo about teachers getting summers off, as did many of the teachers I know. I have 64 hours scheduled in my last two weeks of “summer break” alone. Between meetings, PD opportunities, and special trainings, it really adds up. And this is not counting drive time. All in all, I ended up with 146 hours this summer. I’m going to average this to about two and a half weeks of PD for most teachers, putting in about 100 hours each summer.
Hours on Email and Other Communication: 40
This includes all the emails from students and parents that I receive during the summer or weekends, not to mention the phone calls. If I worked in an office, I’m sure they would be considered billable hours, but I don’t track those very well.
Honestly when I have families that are invested in their child’s education, I’m so excited that it doesn’t feel like work! Let’s estimate that teachers spend at least an hour or two each week on communication. Let’s put this at 40 hours.
So our grand total is 2,200 hours, or 42 hours a week, working year-round.
Of course, I realize that many people with 40-hour-a-week jobs take work home or work more than their 40 hours. But people forget that teachers’ contracts aren’t actually for 12 months a year. Contracts are usually for 39 weeks; the pay is just spread out over 12 months, for accounting purposes. Essentially, we’re working full-time jobs but getting part-time pay.
I’m not trying to compare private or public sector jobs or complain about the system. But it would be nice to see more support around teaching. You rarely see articles lambasting those in the private sector for not doing their job or asking them to go above and beyond. They don’t even receive rude comments, like the ones I’ve seen time and time again about how teachers must have too much time on their hands. Because clearly, as I’ve just demonstrated, time is one thing I don’t have!
How much teacher overtime do you put in? Share in the comments or in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out 11 surprising statistics that sum up the life of a teacher.