The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

Getting Educated About Teaching

November 29, 2017

How would you like a job where you finished work at 3:45 pm every day and got 12 weeks of vacation a year?

Being a teacher is easy, right?

Say that to many teachers and you’re likely to get an incredulous laugh (or grumble). Sure, being a teacher may sound like a cushy job, but the reality is something else.

“When I was training to become a teacher, I actually told an instructor, ‘Wow– when you think of how much time they get off, teachers are actually paid really well.’ Now I realize that that’s not true,” said Journalism teacher Elizabeth Pellicane. “I once added up how much time I spend at home grading each weeknight and weekend– often 9-12 hours a week– and realized that when you add up all that time, it’s the equivalent of working 10 or more extra weeks a year. So I as a teacher I really work the same amount of time I used to work in my hospital marketing job. The difference is that I do it in a compressed period of time,” she added.

A recent survey of the FCHS staff supports Pellicane’s argument. Staff members were asked how many hours they spend grading papers, tests, and assignments outside of school hours each week. The answers varied from 1-2 hours, 2-4 hours, 5-7 hours and even 12+ hours. The results are shown below. 

Teaching hours spent grading papers outside of school hours based on an Oct. 20 poll of FCHS staff.

When asked if they had other comments about teaching, a number of teachers had quite a bit to say. Some complained that it is difficult to deal with distractions and disruptions during class. One teacher said they found it “painfully unfulfilling” when they took time out of their own day to plan an activity and then realized that they had to teach something else.

A number of teachers referenced factors which increase a teacher’s workload that might surprise students, such as their number of “preps” (different classes to prepare for) and whether they teach semester or year-long classes (or both). One English teacher said “Semester block scheduling doubles the workload! If you include the mental energy spent trying to figure out why students are (failing, disengaged, disruptive, disrespectful, etc.) then teaching is literally a 24/7 job!”

Teachers may also have to work outside of school hours doing things like tutoring, calling parents, and teaching SOL camp. One science teacher said “Depending on the class, there is also a significant amount of time spent tutoring kids before or after school that is not compensated. SOL camp is the only time that I get paid for tutoring kids, but I do it all year long.”

The survey also asked teachers to leave additional comments at the end of the poll, and they provide good insight into the days and lives of the teaching profession.

  • “The more different classes you have, the more time it takes to plan. Planning for three sections of the same subject takes the same amount of time as planning for one section of a subject. If you have three different courses you teach, you have three times the planning to do.”
  • A lot of teachers also give more time (albeit within contract hours, just maybe a different contract) to the school through coaching, clubs, and various extracurriculars.”
  • “Depending on the class, there is also a significant amount of time spent tutoring kids before or after school that is not compensated. SOL camp is the only time that I get paid for tutoring kids, but I do it all year long.”
  • “[I] grade 2-3 hours per night (I take Friday night and Sat. off!) Come in early or stay late to set up labs once or twice a week. I do it because it makes class time much more effective.”
  • “I take an average of 15 minutes per student essay to read, comment on, and grade. The total number of students I have in my classes are about 70. For each essay I assign, I have 17 hours of grading. If I did nothing but grade during my 90-minute planning period, I would still not be finished after two weeks. By the way, I don’t always get a full planning period due to meetings, covering as a substitute for other teachers, planning, copying, and grading the multitude of other quizzes, homework, and tests.”
  • “Early in my career I easily spent an additional five hours a day (and all summer!) planning lessons. This was especially burdensome when grade level/courses changed every year and I found myself back at square one with planning. After 18 years, planning is easier, but class sizes continue to increase and grading is much more burdensome now.”

Few teachers who responded to the survey admitted to not doing any grading or other planning work at  home. One teacher commented “My main goal is to leave here and leave work here…period.” However, comments such as this were extremely rare among the respondents. 

One final thing that might surprise students is that most of the teachers at FCHS have not had a significant raise in several years, thanks to budget cuts in both the state and in Fluvanna County. “I certainly didn’t go into teaching for the money,” said Pellicane, who explained that she switched from marketing to teaching in order to be on the same schedule as her kids and because she loves teaching. “After 10 years I still make less money than I made in marketing 22 years ago,” she added.

So the next time you see one of your teachers, thank them for all that they do behind the scenes to help you succeed.

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