work to rule: theory vs. reality

My school is engaging in a “work to rule” action this week. Basically, we are all supposed to clock in at about 7:50 am and clock out by 3:30 pm (classes go from 8:00 – 3:15), and do no work over our 45 min lunch, take no work home. The point of this is to highlight how furloughing “non-instructional time” and asking teachers to do more paperwork affects students in the classroom by showing how much work teachers do outside of the paid 6.25 hr school day.

Teachers from Northside College Prep also participated in a “work to rule” action recently, and one of their math teachers has apparently been taking data on how much time outside of the school day is required to keep things functioning at an “adequate” level (see the article in the Huffington Post). She calculates at least 12 extra hours a week. I’ll be honest, I’m way above that mark (and it sounds like there’s not an end in sight: “Ms. Sullivan’s data suggests that high performing veteran teachers work even more hours than their less experienced peers.”)

I regularly clock 10-12 hr days, arriving at about 6:30 am and leaving (if I leave “early”) by 4:30 pm. My “contractually obligated” work time is 31.25 hrs per week. I regularly work through my lunch, so I’m usually at school between 50-60 hrs per week (and this doesn’t count any work I do at home on evenings or weekends). I’m not productive 100% of that time, but I’d like to think I’m pretty darn close. I haven’t yet managed to leave before 4 pm without scrambling, so needless to say, this week has been a little rough to get out the door by 3:30 pm. Today was particularly hard- we were doing a lab and I had to make sure everything got cleaned up properly and that the supplies were set for tomorrow (particularly as I can’t come in early to clean or reset). I also had to move my laptop and other things to my classroom in the other building (yes, I teach in two separate buildings). This has been my routine all year long and it’s hard to change it now. There are things I take care of at the end of the day to be ready for the next day, and there are things that I take care of in the morning before class starts (either for that day or for something down the line). Tomorrow morning I have to remember to drop off a student’s exam in their separate location testing area, which is normally not a problem but will be a scramble to get done between 7:50-8:00 am.

I don’t know if I’m really sticking to the spirit of the “work to rule” action. When we heard that this was coming, both the physics team and chemistry team kicked into gear to get this entire week planned out and made sure that copies were made in advance. It helps a ton that we’re at the end of the unit for both classes, so things just needed to be finalized rather than planned fresh. (It also helps that next week is short and broken up by PSAT/SAT testing.) Still, I ended up staying late a lot last week to prepare for this week where I wouldn’t be able to do so. So the time was still spent on prep, it’s just a question of whether it was spent earlier or later. I can’t in good conscience really do nothing outside of the school day, because then my classes would be terrible and I just can’t let myself knowingly give my students a bad learning experience. And right now, I feel like I’m letting down my students because they have a test or a quiz or a project (or multiple of the above) coming up or due soon and I’m not available for them before or after school as I normally am.

I’m not going to lie, it’s nice to have more “free time” in the afternoons. I managed to run some errands on Monday afternoon and went to the grocery store yesterday; I had time to cook a real dinner in the middle of the week and I made it to a yoga class last night. But it’s also stressful to not be able to plan on my own time and have to cram things into my 90 minutes of prep every day, particularly as I felt like that time was compressed enough as it is. I prefer coming in early in the mornings because I can get so much done when not many others are around (and I’m also just more functional in the morning).

So I don’t know how I feel about the “work to rule” thing. Overall, it’s been stressful and I doubt that it will result in any real action or notice from those in power (the school district office, the school board, the state…) While it highlights for me how much time and energy I spend on school outside the school day, I wonder if it really lets those outside the teaching profession know how much goes into that 6.25 hr school day. And it’s not that I didn’t know how many hours I spent outside of my “paid” time doing work, or that I ever expected my day to start at 7:50 and end at 3:30. There’s no way to spend 4.5 hrs a day teaching and also have the classes be well prepped and assignments graded in a reasonable time frame. I just wonder what the best way is to drive this point home to those decision makers who seem to have no idea what teachers actually do

One thought on “work to rule: theory vs. reality

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s