How much time do teachers put into being a teacher?

So there's a distinction I need to make here at the start, and it's not meant to be insulting to any of my professional brethren. Each group will know who they are.

There are two kinds of teachers, and movement from one category to the other is entirely common, but it heavily changes the nature of this answer:

  1. People who teach. The people who teach do so because it pays their bills, because it's a job they can do, or because they were told at some point that this is what they should do, and it stuck. Most of them work fairly hard, but they could leave the profession for work in another field quite readily and without qualms. They may bring work home and they may tutor kids from time to time, but by and large, teaching is their job. They work 8-5, they go home, maybe grade some papers, and they call it a day. These are NOT bad people, and in many cases, they're not bad teachers. They have a job and they do the job well.
  2. People who are teachers. I can distinctly remember teaching Dungeons and Dragons to a friend of mine when I was ten years old. I wrote a strategy guide for a MUD (early text version of an MMO) when I was 13 that adults followed in large numbers - and they were shocked when my age eventually came out. I tutored friends in high school without thinking about it. I've always explained my thoughts well and adapted examples to fit my audience to aid in their comprehension. People like me don't teach as a job. We teach simply because that is who we are - we are communicators of knowledge. Many of us aren't even educators, but the majority do find themselves called to this profession.

People who are teachers spend a jaw-dropping amount of time "being a teacher." I get up in the morning and I'm restructuring my lessons for the week based on what happened yesterday while I'm shaving. I'm thinking about some students I may need to have a chat with about X/Y/Z while I'm getting dressed. Something funny happens that I could use in an example while I get my kids ready, and I make a mental note to mention it later.

I teach all day. I eat in my classroom - not with other teachers - a great deal of the time, because my students view my room as a refuge from drama, and kids need that. I sometimes stay late just because a kid needs to talk about something and they trust me to be honest and frank with them.

I drive home thinking about how much I accomplished that day and revising lessons that I just did so that next year, I can do them better. It's not a ritual that I put into place deliberately - it's just me demanding the best I can deliver every day. That night, I'll put my kids to bed and spend some time fiddling on the computer or hanging out with my wife. If we're watching The Walking Dead, I'll note examples of literary stereotypes or plot devices to discuss, because I know many of my students watch it. It's not a conscious thing or an intentional move - I just analyze as I watch. If I'm playing a computer game, I'll note economics in action and use it to explain supply and demand to my students the next day, because they'll understand it if I use these terms.

I go to sleep probably thinking about whether I'm going to catch up on my grading or not....because most of the best teachers care the least about grading. Grading is the sphincter-wipe of education. No teacher likes it, and it's the residue of the far more important parts of the job - but man, if you let it pile up, it chafes everybody.

In the summers, contrary to popular belief, teachers spend most of the time trying desperately to pull in new ideas, new concepts, new techniques, because the static educator is the dying educator. Even when I'm not at some ruddy conference or other, I'm still making notes as the days go by of lesson changes - Google Docs opens anywhere, folks - and tinkering. That's if I'm not teaching my kids to swim, or teaching someone to do something else. Very, very few teachers stop teaching in the summer - we just teach somewhere or something else, and the change is very important/relaxing.

The thing about those people who are teachers is that what we do is probably 16-18 hours a day of "putting time into teaching." It really is a calling. People who teach get 180 days a year to teach children. They're good at it in many cases. People who are teachers get one chance, 180 times, to get an idea across. It's an important distinction. One group can try again the next day. The other sees each day as an opportunity not to be wasted, because it will never come again.

How much time do I put into being a teacher?

Brother-man/sister-woman, I put all of it in.

Jesse has a point, I'm going to look at it from a slightly different angle.  Teaching more than many (but not all) jobs is conducive to putting in extra time--there seems to be no end to things you could do to make your job more effective or meaningful. There is truth in the movies that come out from time to time about teachers who pour their whole life into their classroom and sometimes get amazing results. You have to ask what some of those teachers give up, though. Like any obsession (yes, you can be obsessed with doing something noble) it can take over your life. I'm not embarrassed to do less than my best because I spend time at home with my family or relax some times. I'm not relaxing so that I can teach better, I'm doing it to live a life that's right for me.

Back to your question: Some teachers will spend nearly every waking minute being a teacher, some just the minimum (I don't know how it could be done in 40 hours a week, but maybe). I'd estimate at my school that the average teacher puts in 50-55 hours a week. The non-"face time" time is spent preparing and grading for the most part.

I'll give my time as an example. I have not incudes all the time thinking and planning in my head, which happens all the time - when I'm out running, driving, whatever. I love my job, and wouldn't be anything other than a teacher.

Weekday during termtime:

Get up 0615. Get my own children ready for school,  and probably do some last minute prep and answer some important emails that have come in over night

0800 arrive at school and meet tutor group or house.

Maybe manage a half hour break for lunch.

1700 leave school after last lesson and collect my own children.

2000 children are in bed. Time for a few hours work before bed.

Of course,  many weeks there will be a parents evening, training evening, open evening,  or whatever and I will leave at 1930 at the earliest.

Weekend during term time:

Every other week (on average) run a school trip for a whole day (eg. Climbing or caving). Once a term run a three day residential trip.

Other weekend days, fit in something like 6 hours work somewhere.


Run at least a 1 week residential trip each holiday.

Several days of training and assessment and revalidation for outdoor qualifications.

Average 3 hours a day work the rest of the time, unless summer when it is more like 5 once you include exam marking and preparing things for next year.

This all assumes that there are no changes to the curriculum. Good luck with that!

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