Teachers face more responsibilities than ever in modern times. In addition to falling enrollment rates, challenging district budgets, and a push to implement identity politics in the classroom, they are expected to do the traditional duties of grading papers, organizing lessons, and discussing student performance with parents, especially when a pupil is struggling. These are often aspects of the job that are done off the clock. Teachers have long since been expected to utilize personal time for their profession, and now that they are under more scrutiny than ever, determining the teacher work week may offer perspective on teaching trends.
The EdWeek Research Center recently surveyed 1,300 teachers and found that teacher dissatisfaction is at an all-time high and is connected to the extended work hours. On average teachers are now said to be working 54 hours a week. The typical 40-hour teacher workweek is no longer enough to cover staffing shortages and tackle ongoing tiffs between parents and teachers, nor does it offer better outcomes than alternatives like private school and homeschooling. Funding is determined by The Department of Education, which is currently linked to the Biden Administration and is touted as having its own political agenda to use “equity” policies as a way to determine funding. In addition, teachers in many states are required to join Teacher Unions which take large portions of pay and actively work to influence government policy.
Teachers who join the profession hoping to mold young minds and engage students quickly learn the gravity of the situation. They are, in many cases, merely the messengers imparting government-approved lessons and encouraged to pander to union politics. When parents disagree with curriculum content, it is the teachers who face the backlash first. When instructed to impart lessons that veer from core studies like math, science, reading, writing, and history, teachers who believe in the power of critical thinking are forced to risk losing their job if they oppose new lesson plans. These stresses combined with the ever-growing hours of the teacher work week can be grueling.
It is true that some extremists view their teacher work week as the perfect time to instill their own political beliefs and personal agenda in their classrooms. These teachers are the individuals who are forcing lawmakers to pass legislation barring them from teaching mature content to young students or preventing them from littering classrooms with flags of every new activist movement that is created.
Even so, the grueling hours of the teacher work week are a reflection of the challenges many workers face. This is not the only industry where employees have been required to take on extra duties and responsibilities. Teachers are not the only ones who are having to work more for less in order to combat rising inflation rates and bad political policies which directly hurt the American people. On average, Americans work 435 more hours a year than German workers, 400 more a year than citizens of the UK, 365 more than the French, and 169 more than the workers of Japan. Productivity has increased by 430% since 1950. Despite this, the inflation crisis is causing families in the US to spend more than ever on basic necessities at rates that far outpace their rate of pay.
As the teacher work week continues to tax educators, it is also taxing the families of students. Public school students have been falling since before the pandemic. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress the “nation’s report card” displayed that student progress was deteriorating as of January 2020. Students who saw the worst decline were those who were already struggling. It seems as if more teacher hours haven’t amounted to better student understanding, but quite the opposite. Across the nation, districts reported failing test scores before lockdowns and mask mandates slowed progress. Now, in the aftermath, it seems as if the state of education is falling into crisis.
Numerous schools are desperately scrambling to test out new methods which may offer some aid in combatting the long teacher work week average. From a 4-day school week, requests for larger budgets, and even proposed collaboratives that allow outside influencers to come in and teach, the public education system is grasping at straws to find balance while Teachers, students, and their families experience the repercussions. The results of these approaches will not be seen for some time, but teachers are expected to see fewer hours in many areas.