A fortnight in the life of a teacher

Kathryn O’Sullivan, a teacher at McCarthy Catholic College Tamworth, has mapped out her typical fortnight in minutes.

The fortnight consists of 336 hours. Of those hours, our current teaching award and conditions suggest that we will spend 70 at work, leaving us with 266 hours to do with what we please.

It is recommended that you would spend 6-8 hours each night sleeping (let’s take an average of seven), so that leaves you with 168 waking hours of your own blessed ‘free’ time.

You probably eat, right? So let’s also take out two hours per day for the preparing and eating of weekday meals (assuming that you only eat lunch at work and have your breakfast and dinner at home – we know many who are at work for one or the other, but let’s call them ‘anomalies’ at this stage); and let’s say that on the weekend this extends to three hours.

You now have 136 hours of ‘free’ time. Sounds like teachers just have it all! So much room for activities! Let’s jump into that 70 hours you spend at work and see how it looks up close.

Reasonable or not?

Each fortnight, a high school teacher spends 40 hours face to face with students in the classroom. That leaves 30 hours for preparation of materials, marking student work, and general teaching duties, like meetings and what not. That seems completely reasonable! Or does it…

Let’s convert this to minutes – 30 hours becomes 1800 minutes. 1800 minutes of time at work to get everything done.

180 minutes of that time is given to Homeroom and assembly supervision. 100 minutes goes to other supervisory duties. 75 minutes goes to the fortnightly staff meeting. 60 minutes goes to the fortnightly KLA meeting. Many teachers are in more than one KLA, but let’s just plan for one. There’s a 20 minute briefing on Monday morning and a Friday morning ‘Gospel’ for 20 minutes of staff prayerfulness.

Of your original 1800 minutes of preparation time, you now have 1305. Which balances out to around 2.17 hours of preparation per working day – that is heaps!

Counting down

But in this fortnight you also get an extra/supervision lesson (50 minutes). And there is a Mass on during your double period away from face to face (120 minutes). Your bus arrives back first from Mass and there are no duty teachers there yet, so you step up and cover until they arrive (15 minutes). You volunteered to supervise at Study Club this year once a week (120 minutes). And of course there has been an email about an online compliance module that needs to be completed (60 minutes). You are now down to 940 minutes.

You go on a day’s excursion for CCC Hockey. You miss one prep lesson and have to leave lessons for your classes (80 minutes). There is a lockdown/evacuation practice (30 minutes). A parent calls (20 minutes). You are rostered to set an across form assessment task (60 minutes). A student calls you to the office (20 minutes). A casual teacher is working outside their KLA and needs a bit of assistance clarifying a lesson plan they’ve been left (20 minutes). You agreed to a collaborative meeting with peers to discuss data as part of your required Teacher Identified Professional Development schedule for BOSTES accreditation (60 minutes).

There are 60 minutes of other random interruptions, like people passing your desk to say hello, colleagues checking in with a query about a resource you shared, announcements over the loud-speaker, the internet cuts out for a random diocese wide update. You have to check your emails (200 minutes) 390 minutes.

That is 39 minutes each work day to prepare for four hours of face to face teaching; to mark the work of the 100-150 students you taught that day (23.4-15.6 seconds per child); to analyse the data of that marking and evaluate where to go next with the lesson tomorrow; to differentiate your lessons so that they are inclusive for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, identified as gifted and talented, behavioural problems, varied socioeconomic backgrounds, language backgrounds other than English, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, eight different learning styles, and 100 different interests.

Worth a fortune

I know! We could use some of that 136 hours of ‘free’ time! Just this one fortnight; just to ensure that you can meet the requirements of the job. It won’t be like this every fortnight, right? 136 hours = 8160 minutes – that is a fortune!

You do an extra 100 minutes of prep time per teaching day (1000 minutes). You cut back on marking to one task per class, per fortnight. You know that feedback is the most valuable tool for improvement, but you’ll just have to up the verbal, peer, and self-evaluation in class. Six classes of 25 students = 150 students. You spend eight minutes on each piece of work (1200 minutes).

You make some wide scale adjustments to your lessons to make learning more accessible to everyone (240 minutes). You skip the close data analysis and go for anecdotal and intuitive assumptions instead. 5720 minutes.

Supervise everything

You coach a sporting team and attend the game (120 minutes). There is a school disco and you supervise first half (120 minutes). You supervise Clean-up Australia Day/ANZAC March/Red Cross Shield Appeal/Year 12 Twilight Retreat (120 minutes). You attend the theatre performance/music night/sporting event/debate/public speaking forum/poetry recital/eisteddfod some of your students are in (120 minutes). There is an article on teaching theory you need to read for the next staff meeting (60 minutes).

You schedule an observation lesson (50 minutes) and then follow it up with a meeting to discuss said observation (40 minutes). You check your emails again, because you only got through the first 17 last time (200 minutes). 4890 minutes. 4890 minutes = 81.5 hours.

That’s still a lot of ‘free’ time isn’t it? Isn’t it? Except your 70 hour work fortnight just became a 124.5 hour work fortnight. That’s over 60 hours of work per week.

But surely it won’t always be like this. That can’t be every fortnight of teaching, can it? I mean, there have to be times when things ease off and there’s not much happening. Or maybe in a few years, when you’re an experienced teacher, then it won’t take so much time to plan and mark, right? This can’t be the reality of teaching.

Of course not! Twice a year we also need to write reports. In those fortnights we would add a further 20 hours. At least we get all of those holidays; we could really use that time to get up to date with our 24 hour access Google classrooms.