My REAL Work Day

Dave takes on the myth of the teacher workday.  Tired as he is to hear, yet again, that teachers only work 9 months a year and only 7 hours a day, he wonders, “Do people really think I’m only working when I’m in front of students?”

Do you know why I love teaching?  June, July, and August, baby!  I love getting to work around eight in the morning and leaving at three!  I love having weekends off!  And the holidays!  Wow!  So many!  Two weeks off in December, another week in November and yet another around Easter.  I love working just 180 days each year!

If you believe a word of the prior paragraph, then you have fallen victim to one of the most persistent stereotypes about teachers.  If we applied this stereotype to other professions, it quickly becomes laughable.  Can you imagine folks saying that actors only work while the camera is rolling?  Can you imagine people saying that football players only work for three hours a week?  Can you imagine people saying that firefighters only work while the house is ablaze?  These examples are ridiculous, because we all know how much training and practice go into these professions.

I still am baffled as to why people think that teachers only work when we are in front of students.

And yet, nearly every month, I hear teachers and their advocates trying to correct this misconception.  But the stereotype lives on.

My own professional life is much closer to the realities my colleagues and I share than it is to the stereotype.  Each morning, I arrive at school between 6:15 and 6:45.  I use these initial ninetyish minutes to fine-tune my lessons and make any last minute photocopies.  During, lunch, I’m simultaneously eating and mentoring students who are struggling with their studies.  Each day this week, after school, I have appointments with seniors who need help revising their personal statements for college applications.  

I’m typically at school for 9-10 hours each day.  If I’ve got student athletes, or musicians, or actors to support, that day can quickly grow into 12-13 hours at school.  But when I get home, I can totally relax!

If, of course, by “relax” I mean grade assignments, plan lessons, research, and write.

Like most teachers, I bring work home with me each night.  This weekend is going to be extra busy after I collect 60 essays from my History students on Friday.

Last summer was a typical one for me.  The day after school was out for the students, I was in my classroom cleaning and finishing up final grades.  The following Monday, I was back at school, working with my colleagues to prepare for the next school year.

Now, truth be told, I and my colleagues both knew that I wouldn’t be at our school this Fall.  We all knew that I had resigned to move to the East Coast.  But that doesn’t matter in the life of a teacher.  My former school would still be there, my colleagues would still be there, the kids would still be there.  Even though I wouldn’t, until my last day of employment, I owed the children of Oakland my service.

But I digress.  After a week of meetings, I was finally free to enjoy my summer vacation.  Meaning that I enjoy teaching summer school.  In August, I was finally done with work for real.

Two weeks later, I was in meetings once again.  Now on the East Coast and with my new school, it was time to gear up and prepare for the coming school year.

Those are the realities of teaching.  All of the teachers I know work 9-11 hours each day.  We work for 5-10 hours each weekend.  Most of us work each summer: running summer school classes, going to training, preparing and revamping lessons, meeting with colleagues.  That said, I’m a high school teacher, and I wonder how the real work hours of elementary and middle school teachers compare.  I wonder if they need to put in even more hours than I do.

We know that athletes practice and that actors rehearse.  When will we finally realize that teachers work, even when the students aren’t there?

Teachers: Please comment.  What does your REAL workday look like?

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