Teaching classes and doing nothing else is a full career. It is the 40-hour per week career that people, naturally, think of when they think of teachers. That is not, however, the entire job. There is a second career, one that demands an impressive amount of time, and one that cannot be avoided.
In order to effectively do my job, I need to actually create lessons and handouts to accompany those lessons. That can be difficult and time-consuming, depending on what you want the student to learn. A safe guess is that for each lesson, including the structure and activities, handouts, and other materials, I will spend between 1-2 hours creating the lesson. I must also grade whatever assignments I create, and structure the rubric of how I will grade different assignment and what each assignment is worth; this is particularly burdensome for me, as an English teacher, because I will have to grade essays routinely. Grading essays can take an entire weekend if I want to give notes and feedback to students on their writing. I’m of course expected to give notes and feedback, because if I don’t, how will students understand the grade they’ve been given or how to improve upon their writing? If I’m creating a basic lesson, creating that lesson, powerpoint, and handout will easily take a planning period (or perhaps two, depending on the lesson). Should I do that every day, I’ve now lost all of the planning periods for the week, and will be grading everything outside of work.
In order to effectively do my job, I also need to check up on my students in various ways. For some students, who need individualized learning plans (students with ADHD, dyslexia, special education needs, etc.), I may have to find time out of my schedule to meet with other teachers, parents, and special education support staff to ensure I am accommodating for those students. To put this in perspective: in my four classes, between 2-5 students in every class have a plan like this.
Sometimes, an event outside of school will affect a student’s behavior in the classroom. Maybe a student’s parents are getting divorced, or a student is going through foster care, or a student’s uncle just died. This will require me talking to other teachers when I have time, so I can see how this student’s behavior may change from class to class or to get tips on how to deal with the student’s poor behavior in my class, or trips to the counselor to check in on how the student is doing. For some students, like Angel, this will be a continuous process of checking with guidance counselors and other teachers and principals to see how the home situation is at any point in time. When a student behaves particularly poorly, and I will have to stay after school to call home and speak with a parent or guardian; it may require giving students a lunch detention, which means I’ve given up thirty minutes of time alone to sit with a student who’s already angry at me, losing in the process even more energy while trying to get through to a student who does not probably want to talk to me.
All in all, I spend anywhere from 10-30 hours of my personal time working on something related to teaching. In any job outside of this profession, that would lead to either a serious increase in salary or at least paid overtime. Teachers, of course, aren’t given that. This post isn’t my attempt to argue for a higher raise (though I’m sure at some point I will want to argue that), but rather to underline the double standard imposed on this profession. In our culture, teachers are expected to be martyrs for their time. And we are criticized for complaining about it.