Thursday, June 07, 2007


An article in a recent New York Times looks at productivity at work. Its ostensible purpose is to point out that we screw off at work because: a) we work hard and we need the break; b) it makes us more productive when we do work.

Whatever. It was this statistic, however, that shocked me.
American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft. America Online and, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two. And Steve Pavlina, whose Web site ( describes him as a “personal development expert” and who keeps incremental logs of how he spends each working day, urging others to do the same, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day. “The average full-time worker doesn’t even start doing real work until 11:00 a.m.,” he writes, “and begins to wind down around 3:30 p.m.”
Those three statistics don't mesh. One says we work 29 hours a week, another says we work 24 hours (3 days) the other says 7.5. Let's average these and say the average American worker really works about 20 REAL hours a week. Assuming only two weeks of vacation, that equals about 1000 hours a year.

Let's compare this to how many hours a high-school teacher works. First of all, I have five classes a day, of about an hour each. That's five hours of required supervision, where I am teaching 25-30 children. Then, let's assume that a teacher has two different classes to prepare for each day. If it takes minimum 30 minutes each, that raises our total to 6 hours. Then let's assume that it takes me one minute per student per day to correct their assignments and enter them in the gradebook. Of course, this number is very low, but let's just make it easy. That's 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours per day. That's a minimum of 8.5 hours of actual work per day. Then multiply that number by 180, the number of days per year we meet with students. [Before I go on, let me note that I won't add parent conferences, weekly staff meetings, collaboration, working lunches, or any other work we do that is not directly related to the classroom.] That's 1530 hours, 50% more than the average worker.

Think about that next time somebody talks about how much free time teachers have.

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