Here's How Many Hours a Week Teachers Work (2023) (2023)

It’s not uncommon for teachers to clock in extra hours each day to ensure they meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs. But everything from answering emails to grading papers adds up: A typical teacher works about 54 hours a week—with just under half of that time devoted to directly teaching students, a new survey finds.

The nationally representative survey of more than 1,300 teachers was conducted by the EdWeek Research Center between Jan. 9 and Feb. 23 and commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College. It was designed to replace the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which ran for more than 25 years and ended in 2012.

Teacher dissatisfaction appears to be at an all-time high, the survey found, with heavier workloads in part to blame. While teachers have always, to an extent, known that good teaching takes a lot of time, and workloads overall have increased over the years, the pandemic has complicated their schedules even more, say teachers.

In the last two years, they’ve had to juggle regular teaching duties with covering classes during staffing shortages; preparing for sudden pivots to remote learning; figuring out how to get every student to grade-level learning after interrupted instruction; and supporting students with greater mental health needs.

“In general, teachers work more than 40 hours a week during normal times, and this is anything but normal,” said Lynn Holdheide, senior adviser for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research, which provides technical assistance and consultation to states and districts to best support their workforce.

While teachers cited the need for better pay to match the amount of work they put in each week, they also said support systems to help manage their workloads are crucial. It’ll take logistical changes such as reworking school calendars and prioritizing the social-emotional needs of both students and teachers, they said.

Teaching involves more work than the general public recognizes

Those who do not work in schools may point out that many other professionals also work more than 40 hours a week, including taking work home with them. Those outside education often make arguments that teachers get summers off.

But if you take a closer look at what actually goes into good teaching, how much time that takes, and how teachers are compensated for that work, you’ll find that teachers’ work weeks are in many ways just as taxing, if not more so, than in other careers, and that they receive much lower pay and less public respect, Holdheide said.

The general public needs to consider that teachers’ work doesn’t end with the day’s final school bell. And it’s not just about lecturing at the front of the classroom.

Teachers look at data to assess how students’ learning is progressing and where they need to be. They care for the well-being of multiple children at a time. They may not teach in the summer, but they review curriculum, study and understand academic standards, learn about and prepare to use new research-based learning strategies, and more.

“A good teacher is constantly developing and growing and that does take time,” Holdheide said.

Yet in the new Merrimack College Teacher Survey, 74 percent of teachers slightly or strongly disagreed that their salary was fair for the work they do.

And 63 percent slightly or strongly disagreed with the idea that they have a lot of control and influence over their schedule such as the classes they teach and non-academic duties they take on, which Holdheide said can contribute to anxiety.

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Here's How Many Hours a Week Teachers Work (2023) (1)

Patrick Jiner, a 7th grade math teacher at Lake Middle School in Denver, said that lesson planning can take up a lot of time that competes with other demands in and out of school such as being able to attend his daughter’s recitals.

If you teach the same grade for multiple years teachers can use lesson plans more than once, he added, but if you’re switching grades or need to cover other classes, regular lesson planning takes up more hours.

And sometimes teachers get overlooked for school leadership positions if they’re unwilling to take on extra work outside of contracted hours, Jiner said.

But very often the extra work is driven by students’ needs. For instance, Jiner had a student get into a fight with their parents and confide in him about it. It took 45 minutes to talk to the student, talk to the parents, and in that particular case, contribute to a police report about the incident. It was an emotionally draining experience after a regular work day.

“As a teacher, you’re more than just a teacher. We’re parents, we’re friends, we’re counselors, and I think we have this drive in us that we just push forward no matter what’s going on,” Jiner said. “And sometimes it’s at the detriment of our own mental health and our own stress.”

The pandemic complicated an already complex workload

If teachers were already noticing heavier workloads over the years, the pandemic exacerbated the challenge of not having enough time to get everything done within set work hours, teachers said.

Karen Lyon, a transitional kindergarten teacher at DeVargas Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., had to make her own lesson plans for remote instruction during the start of the pandemic, but also had to draft instructional guides for parents to be able to help their children learn at home.

At the same time, thanks to the pandemic, students and their families are displaying greater social-emotional needs. Teachers are still processing those changes.

Afia Lewis, a 6th grade math teacher at Ardmore Avenue Elementary School in Lansdowne, Pa., was overseeing younger students recently when a kindergartner pushed another student off a bench. When Lewis asked why she did that, the student said their peer “tried to share food and it’s COVID and it can make me sick so I just tried to get it away from me because I didn’t want to die.”

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In another instance, Lewis was trying to teach an introduction to algebra. When she checked in with her students at the start of the class, one confided they were scared because of the fighting in Ukraine. The student didn’t know Ukraine is in Eastern Europe, and far from the United States. So the class briefly veered into a geography lesson and discussion of what the war means for the U.S.

“They have to be able to digest feeling safe first, before they can digest what a variable is,” Lewis said.

And that’s all emotional work Lewis has to juggle with addressing her own daughter’s needs.

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Shifts between remote and in-person learning and the lack of substitutes to cover for teacher vacancies took away crucial hours needed for lesson planning, one of the things teachers wish they had more time for. And when teachers took time off for illness or other reasons, leaving another teacher to switch gears, it often led to feelings of guilt.

“I developed a sinus infection early in the year, and could not come in until I had a negative COVID test,” said Lyon. “And I felt horrible about it.”

Support for teachers involves logistical changes

While teachers hope for more pay that fully takes into account the labor they perform each day and week, they argue that there are also strategies that can be put in place to help manage all the responsibilities that can’t be shrugged away.

Lyon from California once had access to support teachers in the district who would go to different schools to model lessons and share lesson plans and ideas for how to teach specific classes. That helped to shave time off teachers’ prep work in a collaborative way. But thanks to budget cuts, she said, that support and time for collaboration has ended.

“We need to have the time to collaborate so that we could brainstorm off of each other and develop lessons,” Lyon said.

The Lewis and Clark Montessori public school in Damascus, Ore., switched to a four-day school week this school year, said middle school teacher Caitlin Spanjer. So while the workload hasn’t gone down, it’s more manageable because of the time Spanjer has on Fridays to get it all done, including handling parent and professional development emails, lesson planning, and more.

In the five-day workweek, if Spanjer attends a six-hour professional-development training on a Saturday, her weekend is cut short without giving her time to either rest or catch up on work for the week ahead. In a four-day workweek, attending that training feels more manageable.

Jiner, the Colorado teacher, has seen success in time management after his school leadership fought for the school to have its own calendar separate from the district. That gives the school leaders agency to set specific days off that work for their staff.

“That gives us extra hours of planning time that we would not normally have if we were following the district’s calendar,” he said.

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Still, as national conversations around teacher pay continue, Holdheide, of the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, said there’s an opportunity to take lessons learned from the pandemic and act on them.

That means administrators rethink what they are asking teachers to do on a daily basis and what student expectations are. It means looking at whether there are opportunities to leverage remote learning to bring in a specialized teacher for virtual classes in rural areas where otherwise it may be harder to hire; it means asking the broader school community whether school hours and days should shift.

“We’ve been talking about re-envisioning the way education K-12 is happening,” she said. “Maybe this is just the push that will finally get us over the edge to make some of these changes we’ve talked about.”

Here's How Many Hours a Week Teachers Work (2023) (2)

Data analysis for this article was provided by the EdWeek Research Center. Learn more about the center’s work.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2022 edition of Education Week as Here’s How Many Hours A Week Teachers Work


Here's How Many Hours a Week Teachers Work (2023)? ›

Teachers have to work for a minimum of 35 to 40 hours a week. Teachers spend only 1,170 hours per year in actual teaching. 450 hours are spent by teachers planning and preparing for the class. Teachers spend 300 hours grading outside the classroom.

How many hours a week do teachers really work? ›

But everything from answering emails to grading papers adds up: A typical teacher works about 54 hours a week—with just under half of that time devoted to directly teaching students, a new survey finds.

How many hours a week does a teacher work in the US? ›

Editor's note: A recent Gallup survey found principals are working, on average, 62 hours a week while teachers are working, on average, 55 hours a week.

What takes up most of teachers time? ›

1. Creating Lessons and Assessments. While an essential part of the job, creating effective lessons and assessments is probably the most time-consuming activity for teachers.

How many hours do you spend in school K 12? ›

Each year consists of about 6,000 waking hours. Children in America, on average, spend about 1,000 of them in school.

How many hours is a full day of teaching? ›

Depending on what state you live in and what your particular district rules are, the average school day is anywhere from 6 to 8 hours long.

How many hours is a full day for a teacher? ›

On average for all days of the week, full-time teachers worked 5.6 hours per day and part-time teachers worked 2.8 hours per day.

What are the benefits of being a teacher? ›

Benefits of Being a Teacher
  • 1) No Two Days are the Same. ...
  • 2) Chance to Make an Impact on a Community. ...
  • 3) Job Security. ...
  • 4) A Chance to be Creative. ...
  • 5) Unlimited Impact. ...
  • 6) Flexible Work Schedules. ...
  • 7) Lifelong Learning. ...
  • 8) Opportunity to Travel.

How much planning time should a teacher have? ›

Average planning time

The average district in our sample affords elementary teachers about one class period per day (47 minutes) for lesson preparation and planning, roughly 10% of their scheduled workday (as outlined in their contract).

What is the average hours worked per week? ›

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average number of hours worked per week is around 34.6. This estimate is consistent with the national standard for 40 hours per week for full-time employees.

What is the hardest year of teaching? ›

The first year of teaching is the hardest. While being an educator is never without its struggles, the first year is by far the most challenging — pieced together with idealism, confusion, good intentions, excitement, fear, and expectations.

What months are the hardest for teachers? ›

Here's what they said—and why they said it.
  • Fall (September, October, November) “September. All new students, curriculum planning, meetings, setting up units, updating resources and more… ...
  • Winter (December, January, February) “December. ...
  • Spring (March, April, May) “March.
Oct 18, 2022

What is the hardest thing for a teacher? ›

One of the hardest aspects of teaching is that you only have them for a short period of time to prepare them for the next level. You do the best you can when you have them, but in the scope of things, you have only a small amount to give them what they need.

What states have a 4 day school week? ›

But the trend isn't taking hold in California. Only two tiny, remote California school districts, Leggett Valley Unified in Mendocino County and Big Sur Unified in Monterey County, have shortened the week for students.

What state has the longest school year? ›

The state with the most required school days is Kansas for grades 1–11, and the states with the next most required school days are Illinois and North Carolina. On the other hand, the states with the fewest required school days are Colorado and Kentucky.

How long is a day of school in China? ›

The school days usually last a whole day (from around 8:00 until 17:00) with 45-minutes-long classes, with a little more flexible schedules in more rural areas. In China's metropolises, where lunch breaks are shorter, kids might finish school around 15:00 as well.

Why is teacher burnout so high? ›

Teaching is a rewarding yet demanding career. With long hours and a heavy workload, it's easy to fall prey to teacher burnout. Without proper support, teachers are in danger of being overworked and not taking care of their own mental and physical health needs.

What is a typical day for a teacher? ›

In general, a teacher's day may consist of:

Working with students during individual or small group instruction. Preparing materials for future lessons. Attending staff meetings or professional development workshops. Grading assignments.

How many weeks is full time teaching? ›

(This is more than most full-time employees.) Of course, I realize that many people with 40-hour-a-week jobs take work home or work more than their 40 hours. But remember, again, that teachers' contracts aren't actually for 12 months a year. Contracts are usually for 39 weeks, or around 180 days.

Is teaching a stressful job? ›

Ultimately, many aspects of workplace stress stem from anxiety about being effective at work. Teachers, like many other professionals, want to be effective in their jobs and suffer from increased stress, anxiety, and depression when they know they aren't at their best or are not receiving needed support.

Is teaching a good career financially? ›

While teachers receive low pay, they receive several financial benefits that can help balance the scales. Although teachers earn less than other college graduates, they often qualify for special financial programs. One of the best programs is loan forgiveness.

Is being a teacher worth it money? ›

Teaching can be an advantageous and influential career choice for those passionate about education and willing to work hard. While the profession does present some challenges, it also offers many potential benefits and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

What is the 10 minute rule in teaching? ›

The “10-minute rule” offers teachers practical guidance. It typically sounds something like this: If students aren't intrinsically interested in material, they can pay attention to it for no more than 10 minutes. Ergo: teachers should do something different every ten minutes.

What is the 20 minute rule in teaching? ›

The 20-minute rule means focusing on one particular task and solely focusing on that chosen activity for 20 minutes without interruptions.

What is the teacher 10 minute rule? ›

This tool helps prevent the number of times students ask to leave the room during important informational times. This is done by implementing the 10/10 rule where students don't leave the room during the first or last ten minutes of class.

Is 50 hours a week too much to work? ›

Research tells us that productivity falls sharply after 50 hours per week, and drops off a cliff after 55 hours. Additionally, not taking at least one full day off per week leads to lower hourly output overall. Research also reveals the damage to our physical health that overwork can cause.

Is 70 hours a week a lot? ›

Working 70-hour weeks can be challenging, but it's also a way for some people to achieve their financial and career goals. By learning strategies to coordinate your work and manage your priorities, you can make this schedule more sustainable and continue pursuing an ambitious career path.

Is 60 hours a week a lot to work? ›

This explains why long working hours have one of the most damaging effects on mental well-being. People who work more than 60 hours a week experience higher stress, anxiety, and depression.

What grade is the hardest to teach? ›

The Verdict: Fifth grade~ what a special grade. But do you see many of these factors as deal breakers? Do you have more cons than pros? If so, teaching fifth grade may be the hardest elementary grade for you to teach.

What year does teaching get easier? ›

EdSurge News. They Say Teaching Gets Easier After the First Year.

What grade is the hardest in school? ›

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

What grade teacher is most in demand? ›

English, math, and science teacher shortages are concentrated at the middle school level, while special education teachers are needed across all grade levels and specializations.

What month do most new teachers get hired? ›

Job openings may be posted as early as late February for teaching positions for the following school year. Typically though, most openings will be made public in March and April.

What is the hardest subject to teach in school? ›

Calculus. There are a number of math courses or sub-sciences of math that probably deserve some recognition here. Calculus heads the group though as one of the toughest to teach and also learn.

What is the easiest teacher to become? ›

10 Easiest Subjects to Teach
  1. Math. Math is a subject that is mainly conceptual. ...
  2. Physical Education. If you're like most people, you probably dreaded having to go to gym class when you were in school. ...
  3. Art. ...
  4. Music. ...
  5. Language Arts. ...
  6. Science. ...
  7. Health. ...
  8. Spelling.

What is a teacher's greatest weakness? ›


But being afraid to make a mistake makes us prime targets for burnout and overwhelm while also leading us to become fearful of trying new things. This is the cliche answer that tops the list of common weaknesses of teachers.

What makes a poor teacher? ›

Lack of organization and classroom management

If a teacher is unorganized, they can not properly outline their students' daily activities and thus inhibit their learning substantially. Also, if teachers can not manage their students, they will be less than effective at instructing any given subject or class.

Where is the shortest school day? ›

Finland School Hours

Typically, the Finnish school day starts anywhere from 9 to 9:45 a.m., and students typically spend only about five hours a day in the classroom. What's more, Finnish students typically have little to no homework.

What state has the shortest amount of school days? ›

What State Has the Fewest Required School Days? Besides the states that do not have a required minimum number of school days each year, Colorado has the fewest required school days in the United States, at 160.

Why shorter school days are better? ›

If school days were shorter, students could focus more intensely during their classes and spend time outside school on work and things they enjoy. For example, shorter school days would provide more time to do homework.

What country starts school at 10am? ›

In 2013, a London academy has become the first school in Britain to introduce a 10am start after research showed that teenagers do not fully wake up until mid-morning.

What is the oldest school in the US? ›

Boston Latin School is the oldest school in America. It was founded April 23, 1635 by the Town of Boston (see Footnotes), antedating Harvard College by more than a year.

What schooling takes the longest? ›

Doctoral degrees can take up to 7 years of intense study to complete. After completing doctoral degree coursework, you might sit for comprehensive subject matter exams. A dissertation based on your research interests may also be required and reviewed by a committee of graduate school faculty.

Is college free in China for citizens? ›

Nine-Year Compulsory Education in China

The policy is funded by government, tuition is free. Schools still charge miscellaneous fees. Senior secondary school (grade 10 to 12) and college education are not compulsory and free in China.

What time do people wake up in China? ›

Download Table Data
CountryAvg. Wake Up Time2023 Population
China7:42 AM1,425,671,352
United Arab Emirates7:43 AM9,516,871
Norway7:43 AM5,474,360
Finland7:44 AM5,545,475
46 more rows

How long is summer break in China? ›

In China, the summer vacation typically begins around mid-July, though some schools will break up as early as late June. The vacation period lasts for about 2 months, which students can spend doing different things.

How much do most teachers make a week? ›

As of May 31, 2023, the average weekly pay for a Teacher in the United States is $633 a week. While ZipRecruiter is seeing weekly wages as high as $1,038 and as low as $298, the majority of Teacher wages currently range between $461 (25th percentile) to $711 (75th percentile) across the United States.

What percentage of teachers are leaving the profession? ›

Nearly 37 percent of educators working with pre-K or high school students plan to leave, compared with just 28 percent of those working in elementary and middle schools.

Why teachers are quitting 2023? ›

Clip: 04/10/2023 | 17m 51s | Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts, and debates over the curriculum are adding to the pressures on America's educators. In her new book, bestselling author Alexandra Robbins followed three teachers to see how these issues are changing the way they work.

How many teachers quit in 2023? ›

In April 2023, about 59,000 teachers and other educational staff quit their jobs in the United States. The number of quits among staff in the educational services industry reached its highest point since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2022.

How many teachers quit within 5 years? ›

Up to 30% of new teachers are quitting their job within 5 years of teaching. 13% of teachers reported quitting their job due to not getting paid as much as they should have been paid.

What state has the highest paid teachers? ›

1. New York. New York is among the best-paying states for teachers. Reasons include an average annual salary of $92,222 that, although below the state's average income of $107,000, is still more than the salaries paid in other states.

Who pays teachers the most? ›

New York leads the nation in teacher pay with an average salary of $80,286, according to WalletHub.

What states are losing the most teachers? ›

Georgia had the highest number of vacancies (3,112) for the 2019-2020 school year. More recently, during the 2021-2022 school year, Florida had the most vacancies with 3,911 positions unfulfilled. That same school year, Mississippi and Alabama had over 3,000 vacancies.

What is causing teacher shortage? ›

Here are just a few of the longstanding problems plaguing American education: a generalized decline in literacy; the faltering international performance of American students; an inability to recruit enough qualified college graduates into the teaching profession; a lack of trained and able substitutes to fill teacher ...

How many years do most teachers teach? ›

The Average Teacher Has 14 Years of Experience

In the 2015-16 school year, teachers in public schools had on average about 14 years of experience and worked roughly 53 hours a week.

What is the 20 40 rule in teaching? ›

20/40/80 Rule—We remember 20 percent of what we hear, 40 percent of what we hear and see, 80 percent of what we hear, see and do. Learners remember more when visual aids support verbal instruction. Adults remember best when they practice the new skill.


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