During a recent “Cold day” off from school, I meet a college friend for lunch. While walking in he said “Must be nice, to have a day off!” Yes, a day where I am not required to go into work and be in front of students is a welcome break. Everyone no matter what type of job needs a break from the norm to be refreshed and rejuvenated, As we conversed about our work and caught up on our lives, the comment began to sink in and make we reflect.
A teachers day is like no others. Having worked in the business world prior to going into teaching I understand this but doubt few who have never taught can imagine just how different a teachers day is to that in any other industry.
A teacher’s day starts like anyone else’s, Arrive at work but this is where the similarities diverge. Teachers arrive often arrive early to work (or stay late) because when the school bell rings to start the day, there is not time to gather materials, make copies or plan out the day, it all has to be done ahead of time. As the bell rings teachers are perched at their doors welcoming students to class for the day, smiling and giving gentle reminders: “Do you have a pencil? Did you finish your homework?” as 28-35 students file into a classroom.
As a middle school teacher, I teach 6 classes in a day. First hour is advisory to focus on student relationships. Then 4 hours of science and 1 hour of a technology elective. Each class is like a 56 minute sales presentation in front of 30+ customers all with different needs, questions and interest levels. For comparison when I worked in sales, I averaged 5 to 6 sales calls in a day with 1-5 customers in the meeting all with similar interest and knowledge levels. Most of these calls lasted around 30 minutes. As a teacher I have to closely follow up with each students with formative assessments. In sales I had to follow up too but 5 to 6 formative assessments were simple compared to the 150+ I have to do daily now.
In sales, I had time between meeting to reflect and perfect my craft. Having conversations with co-workers, updating the presentation. In the classroom, I have a 3 minute break to get a drink of water and use the bathroom, then on to the next educational pitch. When in the business world, I could often take the customer out to lunch to discuss ideas further. In the classroom, I have to invite students to return for 30 minutes of remediation. Customers were glad to enjoy the lunch, students often like the break from the cafeteria but have difficulty focusing on their learning needs. In the business world I often had hour or longer lunches (unless I wanted to rush), now I am often scarfing down food as I try to teach or prepare lessons. Many teachers (and administrators) go without eating due to time constraints of the busy job.
I am a lucky teachers, having a 56 minute preparation period. This time is often filled with meetings. Meeting with co-workers, administrators and parents. Yes, this time is similar to many other jobs. Our “break” time is like many people’s work. When I am lucky and don’t have meetings, I am busy planning, grading, updating website or making copies. Many teachers on the elementary level DON”T have preparation time every day often being limited to around 225 (or less) paid prep minutes per week. Imagine having to prepare the majority of your work on your time! Most teachers spend at least 2- 3 hours daily preparing for work on top of their daily teaching time.
Yes, the cold/snow days are a luxury. Teachers days are full of work unlike most others. Remember this before you are quick to judge. Teachers, I challenge you to share about your work day to let society know HOW much work we do in a day!
Below is Tony Danza’s message after spending time as a teacher: