Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ahhhhhh....Fall Break, You Come at Last

If you're one of those people that think that teachers get WAY too much time off work, then you might want to skip this post today.  Or maybe you shouldn't because there's a slim possibility I might sway your misconceived perceptions.  Then again, I may completely reiterate your thoughts and have you walking away even more sure that teachers are off work too much.  Let's roll the dice and see how it goes, shall we?

Today is the first day of my fall break.  By break, I mean we get today and tomorrow off work, and then we have the weekend, and then we go back on Monday.  So, a fall break is really code for a four day weekend.  But, am I complaining?  Heck no!  Four days off is complete paradise, and I'll most definitely take it.

It's been seven weeks since the last long weekend, and that was Labor Day weekend.  So, for seven weeks, we've been in school every day Monday-Friday, working our tails off.  

And, I know what some of you are thinking: Seven whole weeks?  Whoopdy doo.  I know there are some people out there that have been working for something like 30 days straight with no time off, not even weekends, or someone else's last "long weekend" was Christmas last year.  To those people, I understand and I'm sorry for making it sound like my mere seven weeks of working Monday through Friday warrants a break.  But, really?  It does.

To those people on the outside of teaching, you probably think that teachers have it pretty cushy.  Working 8 hours a day, Monday-Friday, with a nice, long, hour break each day, and then all the holidays off, and then extra days for stuff like fall break.  I mean, teachers are only contracted to work 180 days, so that's A LOT of time off.  Of course we don't make as much money as we think we should, we hardly work at all!  180 days, that's only 36 weeks out of the year, we should be thankful for what we get, am I right?  People that work "normal jobs" tend to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks out of the year.  They might be lucky enough to get a day off here and there for a major holiday, and some are even lucky enough to get weekends off, but for the most part, people working those long 40 hour  work weeks are working 2080 hours a year!  That's 40 hours times 52 weeks.  Teachers, they only work half that and get off 16 weeks out of every year.  That's the equivalent to four months that teachers don't work.  Teachers should be ashamed of themselves for rejoicing their breaks!! Who wouldn't want a job that has you working 180 days out of the year and gives you four months off, paid?

But, just for fun, let's take a look at those 180 days we do work, and the 185 days we get off each year shall we?

I work from 7:45AM - 3:45PM Monday through Friday.  At least, according to my contract.  I actually get to school at 7AM each morning, and don't leave school until 5:00PM most days.  So, by my calculations, that's ten hours and a day that I put in.  So, I work, at school, 50 hours a week.  On normal weeks.  My plan time is 45 minutes per day, and that time is not "break time", but is spent meeting with my team to plan for the next week, go over student data, and have all the meetings that we need to have.  So, no, it's not "break time", we are actually working during that time, we just have 45 minutes to work without students in the classroom.  Our lunch time is 20 minutes.  So, let's minus the 1 hour and 40 minutes of lunch we get a, I'm back down to 48 hours and 20 minutes of work time per week.  Then, there's Family Nights, and parent teacher conferences.  Family nights go until about 8PM, and they happen about three times a year.  So, on those three days, we actually put in 13 hours. Parent-Teacher conferences also go to 8PM two nights, so that's another two 13 hour days.  This week, for example, I worked 34 hours in three days.  Only six hours shy of the normal "40 hour work week" most people work.  In three days.

So, by my calculations and putting the family nights and conference nights together, there's a week worth of days that we work 13 hour days.  Thirteen times five is sixty-five, so one week out of our contract is spent working 65 hours.  

Let's catch up:  175 days working ten hours is 1750 hours.  Add in the five days of thirteen hour days and that gives us another 65 hours, so right now, we're up to 1815 hours.  

Now, let's talk about how much time I spend working OUTSIDE of my 180 day contract.  Many weekends, I spend AT LEAST six hours on lesson plans, grading, looking for new ideas, and making stuff for my kids.  Not every weekend, but the majority of them.  To be fair, and averaging everything out, let's say I work about 4 hours every weekend.  So, that adds another 4 hours in to my week.  That puts my week's work hours up to 54 hours a week.  Fifty-four times the thirty-five "normal" weeks, is 1890, plus in the sixty-five hours from the "non-normal" week gives us a total of 1955 hours of work.

Now, let's talk about those glorious three months off in the summer that teachers get each year, shall we?  Kids get out mid-May and don't return until mid-August.  That's three months that teachers get to sit around and do absolutely nothing.  Such a hard life.  Who wouldn't want three months off each year?  

Here's what I do with my three months off:

For the first four weeks of the summer, I work at summer school.  Another seven hours a day, for four weeks.  This year, I got paid extra two of those weeks and volunteered the other two weeks.  So, I'll be fair and only count the two weeks that I volunteered.  So, for two weeks, I worked another 70 hours.  Did I have to?  No.  I just enjoy doing something with all that free time I have, cause let's face it.. teachers have to get pretty bored sitting around all that time doing nothing.  

That took me up until the middle of June.  I then, sat around for the rest of June enjoying time with my kids, going on little outings, and having somewhat of vacation time.  And I didn't think about school at all during that time.  That was about two weeks worth. The beginning of July, I started thinking about building some unit plans for the new school year.  I spent about 6-8 hours a week on my computer writing up plans, looking for new ideas, and building those plans to use.  So, over the course of those four weeks in July, I put in another 30 hours or so.  The rest of the time was spent doing nothing but spending time with my family.  So, again, a lot of free time there.  Then, the last week of July, I figured I better start going up to the school and working on my classroom.  I only did a couple of hours here and there, say 4 hours the last week of July.  So, for the month of July, I worked a whole 34 hours.  Big whoop, right?  Who wouldn't love only working 34 hours in an entire month.  Then, the first of August came, and it was in my classroom each day for about four hours up until the first day of school.  So, over the course of the first two weeks of August, I only worked 40 hours.  Again, part-time hours.. nothing to brag about.

So, over the course of my 180 day contract I work 1955 hours.  The extra I work over the non contracted days is about 144 hours.  Unpaid.  1955 hours of paid time plus 144 hours of non-paid time comes out to be 2099 hours.

Wait, that can't be right, can it?

A person who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks out of the year works 2080 hours, and a teacher that ONLY works 180 days out of the year putting in 2099 hours?? How can that be?

I'll tell ya how.  We work our BEHINDS OFF.  

The average teacher works MORE hours in a year than the 40 hour a week person.  Just because they're contracted to work 180 days makes most people think that the average teacher only works 180 days out of the year.  That's absolute malarkey.   

Now, I know that there are thousands of people out there that work WAY more than 40 hours a week.  They go weeks at a time without a day off, and are often working during holidays and weekends.  A lot of those people dream about only having to work 2080 hours a year.  I'm just trying to make a point here about the "average" work week, and the perceptions people have about how much teachers actually work.

Sure, teachers get off weekends, they get off several days for major holidays, they even get all these extra days off for stuff like fall and spring breaks.  But, I hope you get where I've been going with all this.  Teachers don't actually get off as much time as most people think they do.  They work A LOT.  Many of those hours are spent working on their own time, outside the perimeters of their contracts.  

I'm not saying that all teachers work close to 2100 hours a year, but the majority of teachers will tell you that they spend a lot of their "free time" working.  It's what we do.  Am I complaining about it?  No.  I knew what I was getting myself in for.  I was warned about the extra time I'd be expected to work.  I'm just pointing out that when a teacher rejoices something like fall break, we're not doing it to rub it in the faces of those people that have to work five days a week, fifty-two weeks out of the year.  We're just rejoicing a break.  Some time to collect ourselves and recharge.  Teachers work just as hard as everybody else on the planet.  It's not a cushy, easy, job.  It's hard.  It's time consuming.  It's both mentally and physically draining.  

But you know what?  It's still the best job on the entire planet.  In my opinion.  

I gladly work those 2099 hours a year.  I will gladly work more when I need to.  I do it because it's what I was born to do, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing with all of my "free time".  

All I simply ask, is that the next time you see a teacher post on Facebook about her coveted time off, please don't jump to conclusions that teachers hardly ever work, and they are bragging about that fact.  Refrain from pointing out that it sure would be nice to get off as much as teachers do, and how you wish you could only work 180 days out of the year.  Please hold your comments about how nice it would be to only have to work half the year and get a full year's salary for doing so.  

Take a second to think about what I've said.  Think about how many hours those teachers have put in of their "free time" working, without pay, and doing so because it's what they love to do and will gladly do for the kiddos that they work with each and every day.

A teacher's life isn't really all that hard, because we enjoy doing what we do.  In fact, until this morning, I hadn't really thought about how much extra time I spend working, and how comparable it is to people that work five days a week, every week of the year.  I rejoice these days off here and there, I do.  But, I'll be spending some time working, I'll be grading, I'll be writing lesson plans.  Will I also be relaxing and having some fun over these next four days?  Absolutely.  I think I've earned it.

So, my teacher friends, here's to a couple of days off.  We deserve it!

Have a great Thursday, everyone!!


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