As per usual, I got up early today to write. But I made a mistake.
I read instead.
I read about how my salary might be “rolled back” by at least 5%. Which, hilariously, is the term that Wal-Mart uses when they discount products. Education has become a Wal-Mart, guys! We’re not even a Target. We’re a Wal-Mart.
Anyway, this announcement has – not surprisingly – awoken the Internet trolls who hide under the bridge of denial and misinformation. Under this bridge is where I’m paid too much as it is, and how a 5-10% rollback (read: cut) in teacher wages would bring us more in line with the work that we actually do. Since, you know, we only work six hours a day for nine months of the year.
So I decided to do a little math. Real numbers. Because I wanted to know how much I work now, compared to how much I used to work.
This is one of the interesting things about having been a private sector desk-jockey for years before teaching: I have a basis of comparison. And you know what? The two are more comparable than even I thought.
(Note: I know this is a bit long, but I was thorough. Conclusions are, of course, at the bottom.)
These numbers are based on my last place of employment prior to returning to school for my second Bachelor’s degree. I worked 8.5 hour shifts (with an hour lunch break), had two weeks vacation, and one week of sick time. I rarely worked overtime, and when I did, it was paid at time and a half on top of my regular salary.
My work hours: 7:00 – 3:30, with an hour lunch break, five days a week. (Note: “work week” has been calculated on five days in all equations.)
In theory, this looks like 49 (work weeks) x 7.5 (working hours per day) = 1837.5 (hours worked in a year).
Except I didn’t work 7.5 hours each day. I worked in an open-concept office with about ten other staff members. And it was a gossipy place. I easily spent an hour of my day on things that weren’t work. So really, the equation should look more like 49 (work weeks) x 6.5 (working hours per day) = 1592.5 (hours worked in a year).
Ah, but let’s not forget stat holidays. Six BC Stat holidays fall during the weeks or months when school is out of session. But I do get Easter Monday as a stat now, which I didn’t have before. So there’s a total of five working days to deduct from my private sector work in comparison to teaching. 1592.5 – 32.5 = 1560 (hours worked in a year).
And I was only at two weeks’ vacation when I left. I was so close to the three weeks that are required by the Employment Standards Act once an employee reaches five years of employment. So, I’m going to add in that extra week (which I had already been given at my previous desk jockey job, actually). So, I worked 1560 hours a year, but I would have lost another 32.5 hours in vacation time by now.
So, how many hours a year would I be working in the private sector, had I stayed there? 1527.5 total hours a year.
Now, I work in one of BC’s largest school districts. I don’t run any clubs, nor coach any teams. I don’t take my classes on field trips, nor am I involved in any staff committees. I just teach. So my numbers will be much lower than many of my colleagues.
The calculation that the trolls like to use looks something like this: 35 (work weeks a year, after winter, spring, and summer breaks) x 6.25 (working hours per day) = 1093.75 (hours worked in a year). But this doesn’t include the fifteen minutes before or after the bell that we’re contractually obligated to be there. So, really, it’s 35 (work weeks) x 6.75 (working hours per day) = 1181.35 (hours worked in a year).
But that equation doesn’t take my lunch break into account. And I take my lunch break. Current pedagogy says that students need brain breaks to keep fresh and focused, and know what? I need one too. So I take my lunch break – which is about thirty minutes once I wrap up my last class and prepare for my next one. So, I’ll do the trolls a solid and go with their original number: 1093.75 working hours a year.
But I’m not done.
Because I’m still at work from 7:00 until 3:30. So that’s 35 (work weeks) X 8 (working hours minus my lunch) = 1400 (hours worked in a year).
But I’m still not done. Parent-teacher interviews. My current school runs PTIs for two hours, twice a year. But they’re held at night. So I get to add an extra three hours of work time to that number, since I’m still at work. Working. PTIs: 3.5 hours x 2 = 7
That’s not a huge number of extra hours. So, let’s look at staff meetings. We have one a month – when we’re not in Phase 1 job action, of course. These are held after instructional hours (not during the work day, like they were in the private sector). At my current school, they normally last an hour. At previous schools, they’ve stretched closer to two. So, let’s average it out: 10 x 1.5 = 15
Ah, but let’s not forget department meetings. These are held once a month, often after school, though sometimes at lunch. They can vary in length, but probably average out to an hour a month over the course of the year. And when I’m in multiple departments, I go to multiple meetings. I’m normally in two departments, so let’s look at 2 (total meeting hours) x 10 (meetings per year) = 20 hours of department meetings per year.
And then I leave my workplace. But I don’t always leave my work. And yep, that’s part of the job. I was fully aware of the working from home requirement when I got into this gig. And how much marking/prep/parental e-mail correspondence I have can vary significantly depending on what I’m teaching (I have a lot more marking with English than French, for instance) and challenges that my students are facing (more kids with behavioural difficulties mean more contact home), so here’s a conservative average: 2.5 (hours working from home per week) x 35 (work weeks) = 87.5. But then I mark over winter break and spring break, too. That’s easily five more hours over my vacation time. So, 92.5 hours of at-home work time per year.
Alright, so we’re at 1400 (regular hours) + 7 (parent-teacher nights) + 15 (staff meetings) + 20 (department meetings) + 92.5 (hours from home) = 1534.5 (hours worked in a year).
Oh, but I didn’t take sick time into account. And for these calculations to be truly comparable, let’s do that. I average eight sick days a year. I mean, really, I work in a cesspool and I touch all the papers that sick kids hand in. It happens. Only a sick day isn’t just a call in and go back to bed event. It takes about two hours to prep for a TOC (perhaps I over prep, but my illness isn’t a day off from learning), so 8 (sick days) x 2 (hours to prep for each day) = 16 + 1534.5 = 1550.5 (total working hours). So, forgetting the fact that I may have to do TOC fallout follow-ups and often do marking when I’m home sick, let’s remove the six days that I’m not technically at work during the year. 1525.5 – 48 = 1502.5 (total hours worked in a year).
Private sector total number of hours worked in a year: 1527.5
Teaching total number of hours worked in a year: 1502.5
Twenty-five hours. That’s the difference. I used to work more hours than that when I was working part-time at McDonald’s during high school.
I work 98.4% of the hours I would have been working in the private sector. That’s a 2.6% difference. And, according to Google, the average acceptable margin of error in research polls is 3%.
So, really? I essentially work the same amount of hours now that I would be working in the private sector. I just do it in nine fewer weeks per year.