Teachers complain louder than anyone because teachers have it harder than you

Image Source: hpeguk, Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/phelyan/2281095105/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Image Source: hpeguk, Flickr

[Australian] teachers have been told the time they spend at school camps outside their allocated 38 hours a week – such as when students have ”free time” – does not count as working hours.

Principals, parents and teachers are flabbergasted by the memo from the Education Department. The Australian Education Union said it was ”ridiculous” and ”irresponsible”, given teachers are on duty full-time at camps.

School camps and excursions are expected to be cancelled this year as state school teachers ramp up their industrial campaign and refuse to work more than 38 hours a week from the first day of term one.

The union has vowed to proceed with the industrial action over pay and conditions, despite the government threatening to seek an injunction in the Federal Court if it is not called off by January 29.

Source: School Camp Time ‘Not Work’ | The Age

I thought about staying neutral while presenting both sides of this – at times – vehemently contentious topic, but no. I’m going to get stuck in.

I, like practically everyone, do sincerely praise teachers like the unsung heroes they are. I really do. They teach our children and our teenagers the basics, after all. It is a tough job, I recognise that. It’s actually tougher than mine. It’s certainly tougher than yours, whatever it is you do. If you had it as hard as teachers, you’d need a union, and you’d be complaining as publicly and as often as they do; getting in the news, demanding better conditions and pay than last year, striking every few months.

Unlike teachers, you get your annual pay rises and your sublime working conditions, you get to clock off at precisely 38 hours a week (and if you don’t, you get every overtime hour factored into your wage) and you get to take your annual leave whenever you want.

Teachers have to do overtime. Did you know that? They actually have to take things home and mark them after the students leave at 3:30pm, and prepare for the next day, sometimes right through to 6:30pm at night. They even have to work on their weekends. It’s an extremely tough life choice. I know so many personal friends who are teachers, and I can vouch: I never see them. They have no lives at all. They don’t have time to do leisurely activities or maintain hobbies, they don’t go interstate, they are basically hermits most of the year round and every time I see them, they’ve had less than 5 hours of sleep.

I’m not a teacher, but I was a student once, and hell, I know the daily challenges students can put on teachers. I once witnessed a teacher run out of an adjacent classroom and have a nervous breakdown in the hallway. True story bro.

She never came back, going off to find a stress-free career. Like an advertising executive or something.

The bottom line is, teachers deserve the best. And by best, I mean they demand – nay, deserve – way more than you do. Oh, and the definition of best increases every single year after the government is backed into a corner by their bi-annual strikes; it’s only fair.

While less hard working people – those with office, retail or trade jobs – work every day except for public holidays, teachers get school holidays off. This presents teachers with an immediately unfair stigma: they get judged for having more time off than most people. This causes a strange psychological phenomenon to happen in the mind of a teacher: 12 weeks off per year automatically grants every teacher ever, a need to endlessly justify to you just how hard they have it, in order to reverse your opinion of those sweet sounding extra holidays.

In Australia  teachers get eight extra weeks off per year, for a total of 12 weeks paid leave annually. But before you go thinking they just get to book holidays and lie by the pool sipping on their pina coladas, think again:

Firstly, they don’t get to designate when they take their holidays. The fact you only get forced to take 10 annual leave days for the Christmas period out of your 20  annual leave days per year is a huge boon to you.

Also, teachers actually don’t get to enjoy any of this extra time off. You see, every last hour of that free time is used up working. I’ll explain how, further down. Sure, they might do this in their favourite cafe sipping said pina coladas, but trust me. They are fucking stressed out. Before they know it, those 2 and a half months off are over and they’re back teaching in classrooms. Meanwhile, you’ve had it good doing sweet fuck-all in your normal everyday job.

Some might disagree with me. A number of deluded people out there do. Some of the ridiculously illogical, irrational arguments I’ve heard badmouthing teachers are as follows:

On a good week in my office you’re talking 42 hours, on a bad week, over 50. I take work home too. If I go interstate for an overnight work conference over the weekend, that doesn’t count as work hours either. Travel can involve 3am starts, 11pm + finishes, and weekends. I get 3 holiday weeks off a year (my 4th is commandeered with compulsory Christmas leave, which stuffs up plans to go away each year, leaving me little time left to travel to places I actually want to see). Teachers are also unionised too in Australia, which we are not.


I’m commonly on call for my job; networks and telecommunications do not have an off switch and they don’t go home after school and I seek no compensation when I’m called at 4 am because a link between two cities has gone down.

If people who are teachers don’t realise and accept that “wait a minute, I need to mark exams and tests, write reports, and give parent teacher interviews”, then change profession.


Some have even gone so far to suggest that teachers in fact do get to enjoy significantly more time-off each year than regular folk.

But as I alluded to above, if you take all the hours teachers work: evenings and practically every weekend, you could almost say that any holidays teachers do get, are “in lieu” of this time.

The “student free days” teachers also get at the beginning of semester most certainly does not allow enough time to prepare.

What I want to drum home to the rest of you easy-street workers is this:

The fact that most teachers get a total of 12 weeks of holidays per year is an illusion: when teachers are basically pulling late nights every other night of the year (and weekends) it easily makes up that entire 12 weeks (that’s 11.25 extra hours per week, every week, without fail). They can’t even teach effectively, they get so little relaxation time.

Now here’s the real kicker: this overtime throughout the year, of course, is 11.25 hours of overtime per week above and beyond the overtime that you or your friends claim you do in your non-teacher, cushioned jobs. Yes, your so-called overtime is still so goddamn little that ‘fuck you’ if you ever dare complain about pay or stress or conditions being on par with that of a teacher. You certainly don’t need a union to represent you.

You see? That’s why teachers get to strike and complain and you don’t. You might do 50+ hour week and live in endless job stress, but seriously, fuck you if you think that’s as bad as being a teacher. You asked for it by becoming an <insert profession other than teaching>.

Teachers didn’t ask for it when they had their four years of tertiary training to prepare them for maintaining a class room of 25 kids and all the job roles that go with it. Teachers didn’t ask for it, and they deserve more recognition for their hard work than you do.

Because to be a teacher, I’d have you know, is to choose a life of hardship and depravity, it’s clearly a thankless job and teachers have to constantly remind everyone about that twice a year.

Teachers don’t choose to be teachers for the money. That is absolutely true. But they sure as hell do get to complain as publicly as they can about their salary every year, because if you don’t give teachers an annual pay rise they will strike, and your children will effectively be held ransom.

You, on the other hand, don’t get to do this, because … well just because you ought to be happy with your fucking job, slacker.

You chose to work in an office, or doing a trade, or whatever it is that you do that nobody cares about, so shut up.

Never mind that the median wage for a plumber, designer, marketing assistant, accountant, recruitment consultant or correctional / prison officer are all significantly, significantly lower than the average wage of a teacher (source: PayScale.com.au).

The fact you get less holidays, less pay and no representation is because your job is relatively easy. You actually get to use your annual leave and they don’t get offset by the hours you spend on thankless overtime.

Going back to the news article quoted at the beginning of this rant, I believe teachers should get what they are entitled to.

For example, if a teacher goes on a camp for a few days and is considered on work hours (which I believe is appropriate) they should get that factored into their wage and holidays.

It’s unreasonable for teachers to just accept that occasional trips come with the job.

I mean, do other people accept that about their jobs? Of course they don’t. Who else do you know that takes occasional work trips but teachers?

Times are tough for teachers. We all know that. The government is being unreasonable, and so are you if you think otherwise.

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Categories: Business

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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6 Comments on “Teachers complain louder than anyone because teachers have it harder than you”

  1. Not a teacher
    January 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m confused about this ‘holiday’ concept, explain more.

  2. The first of many teachers to ark up!
    January 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    1. We don’t clock off at 38hours… Not even the laziest of teachers do this
    2. We don’t get annual leave, our leave is dictated at the busiest and most expensive of times, so no Thailand trips mid term for me sadly 😦
    3. Sublime… You’re joking right? Of course you are – conditions are the underlying reason we are kicking up a stink! Pay is just one of these side things that you can’t over look. This is the problem with the public, they only see the dollar fight, not the fight about class sizes, performance pay potentially ruining a collaborative profession or the hours spent slaving away unnoticed!
    4. Regarding your comment about time off- see the above comments in this thread for ideas around why school holidays exist
    5. The irony you were aiming for is lost in this piece, not strong enough but a good try. B+ for grammar and a C for effort overall. See your student portal for proper comments… Oh that’s right, I couldn’t do the comments to feedback on how you can improve because the 38 hour limit is upon me. Ill do it another time, in the mean time- keep trying somehow….
    6. A friend of mine did some maths tonight (yes on her holidays shock horror) and in 40 “teaching weeks” she clocked up OVER 2000 hours of face to face time, meeting time, professional learning time, PARENT meeting time, lesson planning time, her leadership development work, union meetings, REPORT writing, MARKING, providing individualized feedback, writing individual learning plans for at least 20% of each of her classes, and reading up on interesting things to stimulate the students with. This was calculated to at least 200 hours more than the “white collared 48 week 1824 hour a year worker”
    7. Conversations like these remind us why we become teachers. it’s thankless at times but articles like this and conversations like this merely strengthen our position for doing the hard and deprived job that you have indicated we do!

    I actually fought today for what I believe in and man it feels good for myself! But also everyone reading this and replying indicates that I’m not one voice, and the rest of the readers out there see a range of voices speaking out that WE DO A BLOODY GREAT JOB given the time to do it!

    Thank you intentious for renewing my faith in teaching and making me want to be a teacher!

  3. January 24, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Bravo, Mr. Beato. You sly dog, you!

    At first, I was game. Then I became momentarily puzzled about all of the hyperbolic vitriole.

    “Where is all of this anger coming from?” I thought.

    You actually had me all the way through “You, on the other hand…’ Right after that is when I started cracking up so loudly that I drew attention from fellow diners in the restaurant. I didn’t see it coming until then. But it was worth the wait. And to think I almost missed the fun!

    Kudos! I’ll be watching you more closely in the future.

  4. James Hill
    January 24, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    I agree with the general premise of this article: teaching is not a particularly taxing middle class profession, especially compared to equivalently paid professionals like police officers, paramedics, electricians or entry level lawyers and researchers. That’s not to say that the job isn’t difficult (it is), or it doesn’t require extra work during unpaid hours (it does), but can you point me to a serious profession that doesn’t require those things?

    To return to the article quoted in this piece: it’s retarded to expect teachers to go on school trips, where they are forced to chaperone children 24/7, and consider that to be “free time.” Would teachers be allowed to get blackout drunk and go cruising bars for casual sex during this “free time?” Of course not. I’m not conversant with the EBA the teachers union have negotiated with the state governments around payment for school camps (maybe they’re compensated by the larger than usual annual leave or some other perk), but they’re certainly working during school trips, no doubt about that.

  5. gwallan
    January 24, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I’m a tax consultant by profession. Teachers easily accumulate more home office hours than any other profession. If anything Andrew is significantly understating the amount of “homework” done by teachers. Twenty to twenty five hours per week is not at all unusual for secondary school teachers.

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