I often hear members of the public complain about the amount of time teachers have “off” during a calendar year, and I hear people within the education field state that class size doesn’t matter. However, let’s look at the numbers.
2400: This is the number of hours I work in the nine months of the school year beginning in September and ending in mid-June. I average 60 hours a week for 40 weeks which means I work 2400 hours with 12 weeks away from the job. Comparing this to the 40-hour work week of the average worker multiplied by 50 weeks equals 2000 hours, a full 400 fewer than I work. Plus, my hours are worked in a smaller window of time.
Maybe my hours per week are not the norm, but I assess student writing daily as an English literature and composition teacher and that’s time-consuming for me, which leads me to my next number.
37.5: This number represents the number of hours–all outside of my paid time at the school–that I need to assess one full paper from each of 150 students. If I spend 15 minutes on one full-length paper from my 150 students, that results in 37.5 hours outside of class I spend, again noting that this is unpaid time for this difficult work, assessing these papers. I attempt to have my students compose at least one formal, full-length writing a month, so this adds up to quite a bit of time.
25 and 6.25: One of my superintendents stated that he did not believe class makes a difference when it comes to student achievement when he raised the average English course class size from 25 to 30 over the last five years. This means I average 5 more students in each of my 5 classes for a total of 25 extra students than I had in 2005. This also means that assessing that one paper from each of my students takes 6.25 extra hours than it did in 2005.
When I mentioned this a few weeks ago when the same superintendent repeated his belief that class size doesn’t affect achievement, he scoffed. I followed this up by saying that he did not understand my point. Those 6.25 hours used to be used preparing better lessons for students, looking for new ideas, completing extra research, and assessing other pieces of student work. That time disappeared just as the results of that 6.25 hours each month.
In fact, I told this superintendent, “The more time it takes to do my job, the less the students receive from me.” In all honesty, I do less now with my students than I did in 2005 because I have more students and the same number of hours in a day, a week, a month, a year. I despise this admission but it’s true.
1: This number represents the 1 promise made to for myself: to increase my health and happiness, I will reduce the number of hours I work. I want to exercise more, eat better, and spend more time with my wife. Instead of working the 60-hour weeks, I will work 50-hour weeks. That 10 hours will be used doing what I want to do. I love my students and I love my job, but I love my happiness and wife more.
And this leads me to my final number.
227: This is my weight today (and the heaviest I have ever been). This number must also be lowered. I have three very full work days ahead of me (and a darned icky Achilles injury from a basketball game this weekend), and then the excuses will be set aside as Spring Break begins. I will then begin to keep my promise to myself and my wife because sometimes I come first.I like to think I’m worth it.