Cast Iron Skillet

A blog about teaching, English, and teaching English


How much do teachers work?

I teach high school English. I love my subject, and I love kids. My job is difficult and demanding, sometimes stressful. I’m far from perfect, and in the complex, ever-changing art of my profession, there are plenty of things I could do better. But there is one area in which I know I’m beyond reproach. I’m a hard worker.

Some people think that teachers have it easy. They think we work only nine months of the year, and part-time at that. So let’s see. How much do teachers work? I don’t know anything about national averages, but I can tell you about me.

During the school year, I very rarely put in a week of less than 60 hours. I’d like to use that number, because I’m completely confident that it’s an underestimation. My wife would say that my true average is much higher. I’m usually in the building for over 10 hours, and I rarely take a break at lunch. I have work at home maybe two or three, occasionally four nights a week. Sometimes just a little, sometimes a few hours. I get the bulk of my essay grading done over the weekend. And it takes many hours of sustained mental effort to grade a set of essays well. There’s no multitasking. You have to think hard.

My district’s academic year is 39 weeks, but a couple of those are only half-weeks, like Thanksgiving. So that means 37 weeks of 60 hours each, or 2220 hours, plus two weeks of 30. I feel safe using these numbers because I am certain that the reality is considerably higher. Over the three weeks of Christmas Break and Spring Break, I usually have a fair bit of grading, around 10 hours a week, for a total of 30 hours. This year, on Christmas Break, I had around 160 essays to grade. In the summer, we’ll say it’s a year I don’t go to a week-long teacher workshop. I do no schoolwork for two weeks, and then for the other seven weeks I work about 5-10 hours a week.  This summer, one of my many projects was to make props for the plays we read aloud in class. And I had meetings and work sessions with colleagues. So that’s at least 50 more hours. Then the week before school is full of preparation and meetings, a full 40-hour week—or more, if the lawfetchers in Columbus have been especially fecund. That makes a total of 2400 hours per year.

If you have the standard American workweek of 40 hours, and if you only get two weeks off out of the 52, then you put in 40 times 50, or 2000 hours. You’re 400 hours behind this teacher. Are there lazy teachers? Of course there are. There are lazy people in all professions. There are even some lawmakers lazy enough to let lobbyists make laws for them. But if there are any lazy teachers in this building, I haven’t met them yet. I’m proud to work in this school. The faculty and administrators and staff are nothing short of phenomenal. I’m amazed by what they do. I’m honored to be one of them.

I’m proud to be a teacher. I really like it when I meet people and I can answer the inevitable question, “What do you do?” by saying: “I’m a teacher.” I think that’s a really cool thing to be able to say.