Teachers are horrendously overworked, right? Or else they’re idle layabouts counting the days down to their next over-long holiday. Depends who you listen to.
I don’t personally reckon either is true.
Sure, there are times of the year when my workload feels horrendous (though that’s mainly due to my inability to say “No” when asked if I’d be interested in taking on something else). If you’re an NQT, or teaching a subject or exam board you’re not familiar with, then you’re likely to have a pretty hard life too, and collapse in a relieved heap at the start of each holiday. And I am well aware that my colleagues teaching essay subjects have a much tougher marking load than I do.
I do know teachers who really seem to spend their every waking minute on school work – in some cases they do have that sort of marking or preparation load, but in others, I think they feel guilty if they spend time on themselves. I’m never sure whether all the extra work actually delivers a better result – speaking personally, lessons I’ve slaved over preparing sometimes don’t work as well as ones where I’ve just winged it. That’s not a justification for not planning your lessons, but it is one for considering whether you really need 2 hours of prep for a 1 hour lesson. If you over-prepare, you can have too much mentally invested in the lesson as you envisaged it, so may be less inclined to be flexible when appropriate too.
We also need to remember most other professionals take work home too – we’re not unique in that – and they usually have shorter holidays. Although most teachers do spend some of the holidays on work, we do have the flexibility about when and where to do it… it’s not really the same as actually being obliged to be in a place of work. (Though a special mention here for those taking school trips abroad in the holidays – in my book they are working twice as hard as when they’re in school – all that responsibility 24 hours a day!).
My personal comparison is always with the 4 years I spent running a business with a friend. Now that WAS hard work, and stupidly long hours, and almost no holidays – and I earned a lot less, and sometimes could only pay myself late as the income wasn’t coming in. Teaching’s never ever got as tough as that.
Now I’ll sit back and wait for the hate mail where everyone tells me that all other teachers really do work harder than everyone else, it’s just I’m lazy!