Teaching Should Be Limited

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 12
  • 2006

If a teacher wants to work for 10 hours every day, be on call during the evenings to answer questions about the day’s lesson, and maybe work for 3 hours every other Saturday teaching an additional class, for that teacher’s and the students’ own good, that should not be allowed.

Let’s Get It Right, that site I mentioned recently whose mission is to improve NCLB, wrote an entry on their NCLBlog about KIPP, criticizing the model for requiring such demanding hours of its teachers. The Chalkboard went on to critique NCLBlog’s critique of KIPP. There’s a post on NCLBlog in order to continue the conversation, since The Chalkboard doesn’t allow comments. It’s a really complicated string of events, but I have a diagram of it in my back pocket, if anyone needs to see it.

Anyhow, I refer to these articles because two interesting points came up in my scanning of all this.

Both points lead me to the idea that society should really look into placing limitations on the hours expected of teachers.


Because a writer on NCLBlog, Michele, states that teachers should not have to be on call 24/7 and work such grueling hours as demanded by the KIPP model, Joe W. at The Chalkboard writes that she has a “lackluster work ethic.”

When someone does not want to do their job, that’s a poor work ethic. When someone doesn’t want to do their job and they want to convince you not to do yours either, that’s a questionable work ethic. When someone wants to sit at home and eat potato chips while watching The Maury Povich Show and still collect a paycheck at the end of the month, that’s a lackluster work ethic.

However, when someone does want to do their job and asks questions in order to perform their job better, but doesn’t think that the degree of “above and beyond” duty requested is reasonable, that’s called being honest. When someone notices that to work the hours suggested would mean a total sacrifice of any life outside of their work and would mean the neglect of family, hobbies, or enrichment outside of the career field, and those hours are then questioned or even refused, that’s called being a realist; that’s work ethic that holds to limitations, as on any job, and the ending of the workday. If the job already demands time outside of the work day to complete and then more time is demanded on top of that for additional responsibilities, it isn’t “lackluster” to refuse. To maintain focus on a job all day, every day, inevitably leads to burn out. The question is “when,” not “if.”

“Lackluster work ethic” is exceedingly harsh for someone who questions whether or not teachers should be expected to give their very lives over to the job.

Restraint Needed

In the KIPP model, teachers usually work from 7:30 to 5:00. Sometimes, 3 more hours are put into teaching a class every other Saturday, though that Saturday class is optional. Teachers also must respond to any student phone calls throughout the day and night, even after the final school bell. And, from what I recall, KIPP teachers (and students) stay in the classroom well past the date other schools let out for summer.

Some comments point to allowing teachers to work with those requirements if they so desire. Malarkey. We should not allow someone to work too hard, become blinded by work, and develop into a menace to the system. A willingness to help others is a good thing, but there is such a thing as too much altruism. Such people need to be saved from themselves.

What good does it do society to encourage teachers to burn out by having them work 24 hours a day, always on call, always on duty?

As mentioned by another commenter, truck drivers, lawyers, and doctors are limited to the amount of time they can work because we know that they are a danger if they work too many hours. We should place this same limitation on teachers. Models like KIPP demand too much of teachers for any more than 2 or 3 years in a row. To say that there is a limit on how much teachers will do to help kids should not be a source of shame. Rather, teachers should pride themselves on knowing that if they do too much, they are worthless.

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