My Turn: Much of teachers' work time invisible to the public eye

After reading Bill Peters’ Dec. 16 My Turn, I feel compelled to share corrections to some of his calculations and address the perception that teachers do not work as many hours as people in other professions do. He stated: “If the average teacher worked 10 hours each day, they’d work 1,830 hours for the year. The average 40-hour worker puts in 2,080 hours per year.”

Teachers easily put in 10-hour days at school. Additionally, most spend hours each evening and on weekends planning and grading.

A survey of classroom teachers in three secondary school buildings was done this week to determine how many hours a typical secondary teacher works (elementary teachers, who receive less prep time than we do, may surpass the secondary group in hours). The answers ranged from 50 to 75 hours per week. Teachers with small children at home tend to work closer to 50 hours. Newer teachers put in up to 75 hours per week. The mean for the 21 teachers surveyed (out of 62 classroom teachers in the three buildings) was 58.6 hours, a bit more than Mr. Peters estimated.

Given the above data, let’s redo Mr. Peters’ math. If a secondary classroom teacher worked the average hours per week, he or she would work 58.6 hours multiplied by 36.6 weeks (183 days), or 2,144.76 hours, which is more than the average 40-hour worker reported by Mr. Peters. Additionally, salaried, year-long employees receive at least 2 weeks of vacation and approximately 10 standard holidays off. Recalculating the hours of this “standard” employee, we get 40 hours per week multiplied by 48 weeks, which equals 1,920 hours per year. That’s quite a bit lower than Mr. Peters’ estimate of 2,080.

Mr. Peters also assumes that no teacher takes any classes, does any training, or plans ahead for classes during the summer. We could easily add another 30-100 hours of summer work and training, depending on individual needs and requirements (all teachers must earn “recency credits” on their own time).

True, we all knew what we were in for when we joined this profession, and we willingly put the time in to get the job done. The fact is that much of our time is invisible to the public eye, yet we work the hours we do because we believe we can make a positive difference in the lives of our students.

• Carol May has taught math in the Juneau School District for 17 years.

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