Friday, February 26, 2010

A Teacher's Day: Why Teachers Might not Want to Teach all Year Long

I listened to an educational expert on some news channel discuss the firing of the teachers of a Pennsylvania Rhode Island [corrected 3/5/10: my apologies] school this week. I was floored by his listing of the hours a teacher works: 7 hours a day. He was upset that the teachers would not be willing to work more days of such an easy schedule for the same pay--or to volunteer more time to work with students at the end of the school day.

He must not know much about the work of teaching.

1. First: Let's say that a school day extends from 8-3 (or 7:30-2:30). That is a 7 hour school day.

2. Tack on the 15 minutes before and after school that teachers are required to actively working each day, and the teacher's day is now a minimum of 7.5 hours.

3. Subtract the lunch .3-.5 hour and the required work period is 7.0-7.2 hrs each day. Add back in the lunch duty and the requirement to supervise students during the teacher's lunch hour, and you are back to a 7.5 hour day.
  * When teachers rotate lunchroom duty, the teacher off duty still has the responsibility to fill the time with phone calls to parents, paperwork, classroom prep work, hands-on activity prep work, meeting with other teachers, gathering supplies, delivering items to the office, and keeping an eye on the activities of any student in the vicinity. Lunch is eaten on the run unless the teacher can use his/her own time after or before school to accomplish these tasks. Some of these tasks can only be done during the lunch time. I'll be generous and say that on average most teachers manage to get a .25 hour to eat and take a bathroom break most days.  The second bathroom break is taken during the planning period.
  *Planning periods last a class period: 45-55 minutes. During this time the teacher takes a short break that can include water, coffee, coke or some snack. The activities of lunch are accomplished now, too, with the addition of grading papers, lesson planning, writing tests, copying tests and worksheets, and whatever else needs to be done. When substitutes are short, the teachers even rotate through to take care of an absent teacher's class. Any time taken for oneself means the work is usually deferred to after school hours because the work itself must get done.
 *Today, teachers are discouraged from using class time to grade papers, lesson plan, record grades, write tests, develop worksheets and develop computer lessons. Class time is to be devoted to students. All the listed activities that must be done are to be accomplished on the "teacher's own time."
    **Say a worksheet requires a minimum of .10 hr to grade, and 4 of the 6 classes taught have a worksheet/written lesson to be graded, then .4 hr per day is devoted to just grading a lesson. Few teachers assign only one short written lesson per day.  And few teachers have a whole day of the same subject.  So usually the .4 hr expands to 1.5 hr most days, and is often done after school hours.
    **Teachers today are discouraged from using grading assistants. When a lesson involves student evaluation of other student's work, as encouraged with group work techniques, the teacher must still spend time looking over the work to assess the success of the lesson and the effectiveness of the peer review of the work.

4. Lesson planning takes hours each week.
  *Just writing down what is planned takes time.
  *Add to that the study of the state framework by which teachers know what to teach, the textbook, the available activity instructions, and the available prepared worksheets and tests that must be done before the teacher can conceptualize and write down the plan, the teacher usually needs some uninterrupted time to pull the plan together.
  *Often this work is done after school hours.
  *Once the plan is down, the teacher gathers the references, prepared worksheets and tests, writes the worksheet items and test questions needed to complete the set, and makes student copies. This work can be spread out during the teaching week, as long as it is completed in advance of when the papers are needed by the student.
  *Add the hands-on activity prep and clean-up that must usually be done during the lunch, planning period, before-after school minutes, and minutes the teachers stays on campus after the assigned school day and the time devoted to the tasks after the teacher leaves the school campus; the purchase of immediate supplies (done with the teacher's own money if not planned weeks in advance so a purchase order could have been obtained--if the money is there--which required the advance shopping or catalog search to price the item); the planning and ordering of future suppliles needed for such activities; any teacher of a project, art or science class must spend 1-3 hrs weekly in addition to the paperwork required.
    **Science teachers in the upper grades often plan and prep for 2-3 distinctly different hands-on activities and labs each week.

6.  Additionally, today's teachers are required to add information to the school and class network, plan and chaparone extracurricular programs, field trips, and "work the ball game" either as staff working as security, staff working the concession stand, staff working the clock/scoreboard, or staff selling tickets. Always supervising student behavior is understood to be part of a teacher's responsibility.
    **A minimal ballgame assignment is .5 hrs. Most are 1.5hrs or more. Small schools can require a teacher to work a game at least once every month and more often during some busy weeks.
    **Band instructors work every game during which the band plays and every parade during which the school participates and every band camp and after-school practice the band plays.
    **Coaches--well, we all know that coaches work from mid-summer through the competitive season with most practice sessions being after school most days of the week.
    **Each coach and band instructor must also teach a regular school day, too.

7.  Add to each teacher the functions of club sponsors, class sponsors, fundraisers, professional development, after-school tutoring, student requests for additional assistance and make-up assignments; and the teacher's day extends past the 7.5 hr scheduled school day for which the teacher is paid.

As you can see, many teachers who are not coaches or band instructors or cheerleader sponsors work at least an extra hour each day, often at home. Personally, I worked 1-2.5 extra hours daily, more on some days and an additional 3 hours on planning that I preferred to do on the weekends. Of course, I taught sciences so I had labs to plan and prep, but the English teachers had term papers and essays to grade frequently enough that they worked an equal amount of time. Any teacher that used discussion questions--important question types to use since these teach students to write and to analyze information--on a test or worksheet required the minimum .10 hr per class just to grade that one question.

Few teachers are not overworked.  Add family responsibilities and the expectations of teachers to be all things to every student--solving all emotional, performance and morality problems of the community's children--it is no wonder that teachers are stressed and that few want to extend the school year or the school day.

Few teachers devote less than 9-10 hrs each weekday and 2-4 hrs each weekend to school work of some type. Even free time is spent with ideas for lessons floating through the imagination and spotting and collecting items that can be repurposed for a lesson. Many spend summers in professional development and university classes because renewal of each teacher's certificate/license requires documented workshop attendance and college hours collected over a given time span, every 5 years in my state.

In conclusion, a teacher that is paid for a 7 hrs a day for a 5 day work-week actually works a minimum of 50 hrs a week and often more. But teachers are salaried, so although pay can be cut by the hour, extra hours of work are not compensated. The same people who say teachers should work more efficiently to get the paperwork and prep accomplished during the allotted time refuse to let the teachers use more than the .8 hr planning period, the .3 hr lunch period and the .25 hr before or after school (one of these is normally devoted to duty consisting of student supervision) for this work since all other time must be devoted to students. These same people add duties and activities to these "free times."

Why would teachers volunteer their time to take on additional tasks? Yet they do, all the time. They find the time to do these additional tasks by depriving their families of their attention during this time. A teacher will tell you that cleaning house slides until the weekend and sometimes until the next school holiday. To demand that a teacher devote more unpaid time to school responsibilities--pay often needed to hire the babysitter for these additional hours--is a slap in the face these professionals.

Why do people resent the pay for teachers? A teacher making a decent salary often has a graduate degree; all have graduated from college. Why should they not expect to be paid as much as any other college graduate?  Why should they not expect to be paid a professional wage?  Why should they not expect the respect given to other professionals?

[Folks, many errors of the original post, mostly spelling, one glaring fact, were corrected 3/5/2010. I apologize for these errors. Part of the kneejerk process is a rush to express an idea when there is little time to check details. Look for future instances where corrections will be necessary, as sometimes the rough draft is all that I have time for. Do comment on the errors and then look for corrections. The basic idea and outlook will most likely be accurate until I change my mind--another aspect of the kneejerk process. Do read the rules and enter the dialogue in the spirit of the idea of self-expression bar dishonest political correctness.]

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