Teachers Talk Workload
More than half of teachers are satisfied with their current class loads, according to a recent NSTA online poll. The survey also found two-thirds of teachers reported having more than three planning periods each week, although 3.5% said they had no planning periods. While most teachers (61%) indicated they hold labs weekly, 10% hold labs less than twice a month. Most teachers had either two (37%) or three (27.3%) preps.
Nearly half of respondents reported a student load of 100–150, while 27% taught less than 100 students and 7% had more than 180 students. Several educators mentioned their students outnumbered the available chairs and lab tables, raising safety concerns and limiting the types of labs they were willing to conduct. Fifty-five percent reported teachers were not compensated for teaching classes in excess of their schools’ typical loads. Of those who said compensation was offered, it was typically monetary, although some received exemption from other duties. A majority (73%) indicated school administrators can use teacher planning periods for other activities.
Here’s what science educators are saying:
Not enough time to plan and implement digital media teaching strategies, provide group activities, and prepare and clean up labs. Two of our planning periods are used for professional development meetings, in addition to faculty meetings.—Educator, Middle School, Tennessee
Two lab preps is plenty, three is too many, and only one is boring.—Educator, High School, Washington
The class load is fine, but there are too many other duties (committees, lunch, carpool, recess, etc.) that eat up too much time .—Educator, Middle School, Maryland
Theoretically we are paid for each overload student. Somehow the money never shows up in the paycheck…In Design and Engineering, it’s helpful to have a larger group. There are more ideas that way .—Educator, Middle School, Washington
I can handle the class load, but I crave either a bit more preparation time or a better and more balanced daily schedule…I bounce around from room to room and subject to subject. It’s only the first week of school, and I am already wondering how to get through the year .—Educator, High School, Illinois
I teach six classes a day of hands-on science for fourth through sixth grades, and I teach outdoor nature classes on Fridays for three-year-olds to sixth grade…With back-to-back classes, setting up labs is challenging.— Educator, Elementary, Middle School, Texas
The only problem with the classes are that I have to change classrooms throughout the day, making it more of a challenge to set up lab activities.…[T]hat has nothing to do with class load, but it does pose a challenge.— Educator, High School, Tennessee
[I’m satisfied with my class load] if it is [the] normal workload, but there has been a tendency to put everyone on overload, rather than hiring new teachers, which has led to a high level of stress among the staff.— Educator, High School, New Jersey
Having as many as 35–40 students per class makes it extremely difficult to do labs at all, much less safely! —Educator, High School, Michigan
It would be fine if I wasn’t constantly hearing how I also need to formatively assess each [student] frequently, offer individualized instruction and personalized feedback, offer multiple opportunities to succeed, stay on the cutting edge of research-based methods, collaborate with peers, make teaching “fun,” communicate regularly with parents, and take on additional duties besides teaching! —Educator, High School, Ohio
I really need more time for planning…[The administration wants teachers to] teach according to the 10-2 rule, [conduct a] class wrap-up, [not] grade papers during class time, and engage students the full hour, and you shouldn’t [sit] down…All my real work is done at home, and always was, but lab work is done before or after school. Then they want you to be active with extracurricular activities. I’m tired!— Educator, High School, Nebraska
I chose to have four classes per day, but have sacrificed substantial pay to do so. There’s no way I could do a full schedule (five classes), do it well, and stay sane .—Educator, High School, Washington
Three different subject preps and 200+ students each day far exceed acceptable limits. How can any one teacher effectively prepare for three different lab activity classes?— Educator, High School, Indiana
Too many different classes to plan and teach (three different classes...five classes total...and I’m department chair, so that cuts into the time I can spend preparing my classes)..., and prep periods can be taken from you to sub for an absent teacher.— Educator, High School, California
I do not like block scheduling. With all of the material we have to present for students to learn before taking a state end-of-course test, a semester is too short. I would much prefer to have the students for a shorter amount of time for the entire year.— Educator, High School, South Carolina
Class size is too high. [Having] 45–50 students per class is unsafe and [makes it] difficult to keep up with the grading, etc.— Educator, High School, California
Some classes have 32–35 in them, which is okay, but others have 45, and we are three weeks into school with no end in sight to classes that are far too large to manage, especially in a science laboratory class such as chemistry and with lots of special education students in a collaborative setting.— Educator, High School, Georgia
Guam standards state 28 [students maximum], yet for years it is frequently 32–42.— Educator, Middle School, Guam
Classes are too large, especially when you factor in our students’ lack of prior knowledge (in math, reading, English, as well as science) [when] our students come into class. Thirty-four is typical, although lab classes are usually kept around 30.— Other, High School, Michigan
I teach nine different classes at three different grade levels! How is one person supposed to effectively plan and grade for that many classes and still get sleep and have a life?— Educator, Middle School
Before [now], I was teaching at a state school where your planning period was used to make you substitute [for] a class. They gave me six preps, doubled up two of my classes…I was the only science teacher for middle and high school!!! I slept 4 1/2 hours every school night for six years!— Educator, Middle School, High School, Louisiana
My smallest chemistry class has 15 students plus 18 via distance–learning lab monitors. Every other class has 20–23 students, including Chemistry II. One of my largest classes with 23 students has an additional 23 via distance–learning lab monitors. The paperwork of assessments is getting overwhelming.— Educator, High School, Tennessee
Lab contact hours only count 1/3 of lecture contact hours, and therefore, I spend more time in classes with students than non-science instructors and have fewer prep/office hours than non-science instructors.— Educator, Institution of Higher Learning, Tennessee
Administration doesn’t seem to realize that science classes that include labs should really be considered “two preps.” Also, administration does not take into account that science teachers are forced to come in early, leave late, and use their prep time to set up and break down labs.— Educator, High School, Illinois
Too much work and too little time. I spend huge amounts of time in the evenings and on weekends preparing for classes and labs. I have asked for more planning time (especially needed for AP Biology) and have been told I don’t need it.— Educator, High School, South Carolina
The science [department] is the smallest academic department, and we are being asked to incorporate more class choices, but not getting any more teachers to help with the load.
— Educator, High School, Georgia
We’re staffed at 38.5:1 for all classes including lab science. Our labs (separate rooms) were designed for 24 students. We’ve never had that few (on average) students in the labs.
— Educator, High School, California
While I have only two preps, I also am the head [cross-country] coach, which means that I have to use one prep for the sport and another for the two class preps. We also have to be available to sub as one of our preps.
— Educator, High School, California
[I] wish we could differentiate our classes more, but we went from a middle school model to self–inclusive.— Educator, Middle School, Alaska
With only four preps with all lab courses, I have to be constantly moving. Then I have to grade student work during the evening.— Educator, High School, Illinois
Happy With Their Load
We have a mandated maximum of 25 students per classroom in our county. I am very happy with that number. It sure beats the year that I had 44 in a class.— Educator, High School, Florida
Yes, but would like more time for research.— Educator, Institution of Higher Learning, Illinois
My classes themselves are large (34–35 gifted/accelerated students), but it does not make preparing for class any more difficult. I teach middle school, and I find I have a pretty good amount of time to plan (about an hour a day). The meetings we have during planning are usually helpful.— Educator, Middle School, Georgia
Our modified block schedule has been amazing! [It] does require some sacrifice from the elective courses (they only see their students every other day), but our whole faculty agrees that the benefits are worth it. We’ve seen amazing gains with our state test scores ever since we implemented it!— Educator, Middle School, Utah
Though a little heavier than [that of] some other teachers, I’m happy with my course load because I have the opportunity to teach almost the entire freshman class (work at a smaller school of choice in New Jersey).
— Educator, High School, New Jersey
I love having a lot of different classes: It keeps me on my toes all day!— Educator, High School, Texas
Class sizes are no more than 24, but usually less than 20, which is perfect for lab classes.— Educator, High School, Connecticut
Small classes and delightful students; one prep/day allows me to get to know and be able to meet the individual needs of my students through appropriate differentiation.— Educator, Middle School, Virginia
In public school, I used to teach 170 students, have three preps, and have six classes one term, four the next. This private-school schedule is a breeze compared to that.— Educator, Middle School, High School, New York
In comparison to the load I had in a public school…, my current load is much less stressful! I spend a lot more time planning, collaborating, and working with students than ever before.— Educator, High School, Massachusetts