Every five years the National Education Association conducts a survey called the Status of the American Public School Teacher. The most recent version, based on the 2000-2001 school year, has a variety of little tidbits.
Secondary school teachers have slightly more students [per period] – 28, up from 27 – but teach fewer a day. High school teachers in 1966 taught 132 students a day; no figures exist for 1961. By 2001, that was down to 89.
I don’t know where they got these numbers from but I don’t know anyone, outside of special ed, who has 89 students. I never had less than 30 kids in each of five classes and many of my friends have similar numbers today.
The average teacher also spends three more hours a week on the job than in 1961. And she has less time for lunch – 32 minutes, compared with 40 minutes in 1961. For elementary school teachers, lunch break is down a full 12 minutes from 1961’s 44 minutes.
I’d like to the see the numbers of how much time teachers spent outside of school correcting papers, preparing lessons and returning phone calls (or emails). The good teachers I know probably average around 10 extra hours a week. As to lunch, I still stuff it down at my desk in less than 15 minutes – just out of habit.
Among the most troubling findings: Only 61% of teachers say they would become teachers again if they had to start over – down from 77% in 1961. Most observers note that with new accountability demands, teachers are under more stress than ever.
Not half as troubling as some other studies showing that 30% of new teachers leave the profession before the end of their fifth year. Since it takes about five years for a teacher to learn their craft (if they get good support), large numbers of kids are going to be learning from teachers who are still learning themselves.