Teaching Profession

Teachers Told Us How They Rack Up Those 54 Hours of Work Each Week

By Marina Whiteleather — April 21, 2022 4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of a teacher contemplating time
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“If my day looked like this, I would find a new [teaching] position,” Saiida Stoakley, a special education teacher in Detriot, Mich., wrote on LinkedIn in response to an article titled, ‘What a Typical Teacher’s Day Actually Looks Like. The sample schedule featured a 5 a.m. start and ended the day at 10 or 10:30 p.m. with huge chunks of time dedicated to planning or other non-teaching work.

A new nationally representative survey of more than 1,300 teachers found that a typical teacher works about 54 hours a week—with just under half of that time involving actual classroom instruction.

Amid the increased workloads, culture wars, and pandemic stressors to navigate, teacher dissatisfaction has reached a peak and is showing no sign of stopping.

Many teachers, like Saiida, don’t think the latest data tell their story or paint the full picture of a profession under fire. Here’s what teachers had to say about the survey results.

Teachers share their own schedules

Some teachers shared a snapshot of their own days, in order to give more transparency into the variety of tasks that teachers take on during the week.

Christopher P.

5:30

Wake up

6:15

Leave home (potential 2 hour commute)

8:10

Clock in and prep for the day

8:55

Planning period

9:47

My first class (put out fires and make sure no fights happen as soon as I turn to look at the board) rinse and repeat until 4:15 with a 30 min. “lunch”

4:40

Walk kids that haven’t been picked up yet to the cafeteria to wait with administrators
Sit in classroom and try not to throw in the towel until about

5:30

Begin commute home and try not to stew on the behavior problems that my school has

7:30

Eat (probably the first time I get to actually eat)

8:30

Pass out so I can wake up on time and repeat

Nancy P.

6:15

Up

6:15-6:45

Treadmill

6:45-7:30

Get ready

7:30-8:15

Travel time

8:15-8:45

Plan/prep/mtgs/IEP mtgs

8:45-9:05

Bus duty

9:05-9:20

Copies/mtgs

9:20-12:25

Special Ed. Students for Math/ELA all morning

12:25-1:00

Lunch/prep/mtgs

1:00-3:10

Special Ed. Students for ELA/Reading/Writing all afternoon

3:25-3:45

Bus duty

3:45-4:45

Mtgs/prep

4:45-5:30

Travel time home & weekends are spent planning/checking papers/completing RR’s [Reevaluation Reports] & IEP’s

And this isn’t even some teachers’ only job

K-12 teachers already feel overextended and this is on top of the fact that many of them are turning to outside sources to supplement their base salaries.

“I figured it out, I put in about 55 hours each week plus I work 20 hours at another job just to make ends meet as a single parent. I’m killing myself for less than half of my students that care. So frustrating!”

- April G.

“This is not mentioning the fact that at least 50% of teachers have a part-time job outside of teaching😒😒🥴"

- Danielle H.

Setting work-life boundaries

The solution to finding a healthy work-life balance is a tricky one, but commenters noted how setting firm boundaries is the first step.

“I very rarely take work home with me. I certainly do not answer work emails, parent emails, make parent phone calls or messages sent through Dojo after I get home. I even have do not disturb hours set up on Dojo. There has to be a line drawn to create a balance. You’re replaceable at work, but you are not replaceable at home.”

- Pamela C.

“I stopped doing the extra work. I go home and leave school at school. If something doesn’t get done, fine. I don’t work for free. I’ve thrown out entire assignments because I don’t have the time to grade them. You TEACH people how to treat you by what you tolerate.”

- John E.

How administrators can help lessen the load

There are steps school leaders can take to help teachers stick to reasonable working hours. Tip #1: No more Sunday emails.

“The Sunday emails are the worst.”

- Kersten C.

This sets a precedent for staff that they have to be working more than they already are after-hours.

Tip #2: Hear your staff when they tell you they’re struggling, and believe them. Listen to their suggestions on what would help them stay in the profession.

“District administrators should digest this article, including the bar graphs, and believe it.”

- Suzanne B.

“All the surveys, data, and statistics in the world won’t mean a thing if the powers that be don’t step in and make the changes necessary that will make teaching a less stressful career choice. Yet, at present, all they do is ignore the results of all these surveys, and keep doing more of what drives teachers out of the profession, and scratch their heads about why there is such a teacher shortage.”

- William B.

Even if you can’t deliver on all of their requests, you can have candid conversations about what you CAN do and let them know you’re on their side.

“As admin we have many conversations about how to help our teachers manage, but there is so much thrown on them that is out of our hands. I work in CA in online education at a charter school and the new policies from the state give our teachers so many required tasks they can’t focus on teaching.”

- Ginger E.

Know when it’s time to find a better fit

Before giving up teaching altogether, consider exploring if another school or district could check more of your boxes for your ideal job.

“Nope, nope, nope. I work 8:15am-4pm, M-F, and not a second past that. If it’s not done, it can wait until the next business day. And if admin has a problem with that, you should find a different school or district. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t take care of your students.”

- Brandon K.

“Last summer, I resigned after 14 years in my district . . . I then took a position at a nearby district and, I must say . . . YES, indeed, sometimes the grass on the other side actually IS greener!”

- Robin S.

To learn more about the first annual Merrimack College Teacher Survey or download the full findings, visit ‘A Profession in Crisis: Findings From a National Teacher Survey'.

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