Here’s how many hours a week teachers work

It is not uncommon for teachers to work overtime each day to ensure that they are meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of students. But everything from responding to emails to grading papers adds up: A A typical teacher works about 54 hours a week, with just under half of that time spent teaching students directly, according to a new survey.

The nationally representative survey of over 1,300 teachers was conducted by the EdWeek Research Center between January 9 and February 23 and commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College. It was designed to replace the American Teacher’s MetLife survey, which spanned more than 25 years and ended in 2012.

Teacher dissatisfaction appears to be at an all-time high, the survey found, with heavier workloads partly to blame. While teachers have always, to some degree, known that good teaching takes a lot of time and the overall workload has increased over the years, the pandemic has further complicated their schedules, teachers say.

For the past two years, they have had to juggle regular teaching duties and cover classes in times of staff shortages; prepare for sudden pivots to remote learning; determine how to bring each student to grade-level learning after interrupted instruction; and supporting students with greater mental health needs.

“Generally, teachers work more than 40 hours a week in normal times, and that’s anything but normal,” said Lynn Holdheide, senior adviser to the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research, which provides assistance technical and consulting to states and districts to better support their workforce.

While teachers cited the need for better pay to match the amount of work they do each week, they also said support systems to help manage their workload are crucial. It will take logistical changes such as revamping school calendars and prioritizing the socio-emotional needs of students and teachers, they said.

Teaching involves more work than the general public recognizes

Those who don’t work in schools can point out that many other professionals also work more than 40 hours a week, including taking work home. Those outside of education often argue that teachers have summer holidays.

But if you take a closer look at what really goes into good teaching, how long it takes, and how teachers are compensated for this work, you’ll find that teachers’ work weeks are in many ways just as taxing, if not more. well, than in other careers, and they receive much lower pay and less public respect, Holdheide said.

The general public must realize that the work of teachers does not end with the last bell of the day. And it’s not just about lecturing in front of the class.

Teachers review the data to assess student learning progress and where they need to be. They take care of the well-being of several children at the same time. They may not teach during the summer, but they review the curriculum, study and understand academic standards, learn and prepare to use new research-based learning strategies, and more.

“A good teacher is constantly developing and growing and that takes time,” Holdheide said.

Yet in the new Merrimack College teacher survey, 74% of teachers slightly or strongly disagreed that their pay was fair for the work they do.

And 63% slightly or strongly disagree that they have a lot of control and influence over their schedule, such as the classes they teach and the non-academic tasks they take on, which, according to Holdheide, can contribute to anxiety.

Patrick Jiner, a seventh-grade math teacher at Lake Middle School in Denver, looks at a student's work during class on April 13, 2022.

Patrick Jiner, a 7th grade math teacher at Lake Middle School in Denver, said lesson planning can take a lot of time, which competes with other demands inside and outside of school. school, like the opportunity to attend her daughter’s recitals.

If you teach the same grade for multiple years, teachers can use the lesson plans more than once, he added, but if you change classes or need to cover other classes, regular lesson planning takes more hours.

And sometimes teachers are overlooked for school leadership positions if they are unwilling to take on extra work outside of contract hours, Jiner said.

But very often the extra work is driven by the needs of the students. For example, Jiner asked a student to argue with his parents and confide in him about it. It took 45 minutes to talk to the student, talk to the parents and, in this particular case, contribute to a police report on the incident. It was an emotionally draining experience after a normal working day.

“As a teacher, you are more than just a teacher. We are parents, we are friends, we are counselors, and I think we have this drive in us that we push forward no matter what,” Jiner said. “And sometimes it’s to the detriment of our own mental health and our own stress.”

The pandemic has complicated an already complex workload

While teachers were already noticing heavier workloads over the years, the pandemic has exacerbated the challenge of not having enough time to do everything within set working hours, teachers said.

Karen Lyon, a transitional kindergarten teacher at DeVargas Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., had to develop her own lesson plans for distance learning at the start of the pandemic, but also had to write teaching guides for that parents can help their children learn at home.

At the same time, thanks to the pandemic, students and their families are showing greater socio-emotional needs. Teachers are still processing these changes.

Afia Lewis, a 6th grade math teacher at Ardmore Avenue Elementary School in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, was recently supervising younger students when a kindergartner pushed another student off a bench. When Lewis asked why she did this, the student said their fellow student ‘tried to share food and it’s COVID and it can make me sick so I just tried to keep her away from me because I didn’t want to die”.

In another case, Lewis was trying to teach an introduction to algebra. When she showed up with her students at the start of class, one of them said she was scared because of the fighting in Ukraine. The student did not know that Ukraine is in Eastern Europe and far from the United States. So the class turned briefly to a geography lesson and a discussion of what the war means for the United States.

“They have to be able to digest feeling safe first, before they can digest what a variable is,” Lewis said.

And that’s all the emotional work Lewis has to juggle with the needs of his own daughter.

The shifts between distance learning and in-person learning and the lack of substitutes to fill teacher vacancies have taken away crucial hours needed for lesson planning, one of the things teachers wish they had more for. of time. And when teachers took time off due to illness or other reasons, leaving another teacher to shift gears, it often resulted in feelings of guilt.

“I developed a sinus infection earlier this year and couldn’t get in until I tested negative for COVID,” Lyon said. “And I felt awful about it.”

Teacher support requires logistical changes

While teachers hope for higher pay that takes full account of the work they do every day and every week, they argue that there are also strategies that can be put in place to help manage any responsibilities that cannot. be ignored.

Lyon of California once had access to district support teachers who traveled to different schools to model lessons and share lesson plans and ideas on how to teach specific classes. This saved time on teacher preparation work in a collaborative way. But thanks to budget cuts, she said, that support and collaborative time has come to an end.

“We need to have time to collaborate so we can reflect on each other and develop lessons,” Lyon said.

Lewis and Clark Montessori Public School in Damascus, Oregon, changed to a four-day school week this school year, middle school teacher Caitlin Spanjer said. So while the workload hasn’t diminished, it’s more manageable due to the time Spanjer has on Fridays to do everything, including handling parent and professional development emails, scheduling courses, etc.

During the five-day work week, if Spanjer attends six-hour professional development training on a Saturday, his weekend is cut short with no time for him to rest or catch up on work from home. coming week. In a four-day work week, attending this training seems more manageable.

Jiner, the teacher from Colorado, found success with time management after his school administration fought for the school to have its own calendar separate from the district. This allows the principals’ agency to set specific days off for their staff.

“It gives us extra hours of planning time that we normally wouldn’t have if we were following the district schedule,” he said.

Yet as national conversations on teacher pay continue, Holdheide of the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders said it is possible to learn lessons from the pandemic and act on them.

This means that administrators are rethinking what they ask teachers to do on a daily basis and what student expectations are. This means examining whether there are opportunities to leverage remote learning to bring in a specialist teacher for virtual classrooms in rural areas where otherwise it might be more difficult to hire; this means asking the whole school community if school times and days should change.

“We talked about rethinking the way K-12 education happens,” she said. “Maybe it’s just the push that will finally make us take the leap to make some of these changes that we’ve been talking about.”

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