My Quest for the 40-Hour (almost…) Work Week
Have you ever added up the hours of your work week? Give it a try. Don’t forget time spent grading, entering data, meetings, and parent communication. Be sure to count both hours spent working at school and at home. The weekend hours count too.
What did you get? 50 hours? 55? 60?
Recently, Angela Watson has been talking about a “40 Hour Teacher Workweek” on her blog, in her book, and on her podcast. (All highly recommended!) She has inspired me to examine the efficiency of my work hours, and while I don’t think I can reduce my hours to forty, I’d like to make some changes to create more time to spend with my family.
In a nutshell, Watson argues there are four types of teachers:
- Ineffective teachers who work short hours
- Ineffective teachers who work long hours
- Effective teachers who work long hours
- Effective teachers who work short hours
According to Watson, teachers fitting each category are likely present in your building, and you can probably identify some from each category. These categories prove that time spent at school is not the determining factor for whether or not a teacher is effective.
Reading and listening to Watson encouraged me to reflect on my own time. I consider myself to be an effective educator, and my lessons and activities contribute positively to the growth of students. However, I do not consider myself to be skilled at managing my preparation time. Whether it is before, during, or after school, the way I spend my preparation time is extremely erratic. Sometimes, I’ll be working on next week’s materials before I even have everything ready for the next day. Not a great use of time.
This week I will begin planning for my preparation time. I took a free template created by Watson and re-made it in Google Docs so it will work for me. You can see it below and create a copy for yourself if you wish.
Then, I took my chart and typed in my tasks which recur weekly. Hang up vocab words on the wall? I plugged that one into Tuesday while the students are at special class. Prepare math videos? Monday before school. Make copies? Friday after school. Everything now has its place in the schedule. I can just print a new copy each Monday morning, adjusting if needed.
This schedule allows me to have a goal for each preparation time at school; I already know what needs to be done. This eliminates sitting at the computer wondering and worrying, “There are so many things to do…which should I do next?” Because I’m not asking this question, or even worse, finding ways to waste time, I will be able to complete all my preparation tasks in much less time. At the bottom of my schedule, I will list the rest of the tasks for the week, those which won’t fit nicely into a time block or those which pop up throughout the week. These will be completed once the scheduled tasks are finished.
So can I work a 40 hour week? Probably not. But I’m shooting for 45. Eight and a half hours each workday plus two and a half hours of miscellaneous work from home, usually Saturday morning. I’ll let you all know how it goes!