On the clock
I have no idea how many hours I work each week. And according to a recent blog post in the Times Higher Educational Supplement, most academics don't. Some cite a statistic as high as 80 hours a week, which I think is nonsense. Others suggest somewhere between 40 and 50, which strikes me about right.
Here's what I know. I'm up every morning around 4:00 am and do an hour and a half of grading, eat breakfast and get into the office on most days by 7:30 am. More grading or prepping for class and then teaching four different courses 10 times throughout the week, plus the mandatory five office hours a week. I serve on two committees (Core Oversight and P & T) and two task forces. Several times a week, too, there is a late afternoon meeting. So I end up heading home after 5:00 on those days. So there's a good 9-10 hours a day when I am working either at home or on campus, plus another four to six each weekend. Let's say 47-55 hours a week. According to a recent Gallup Poll the average work week for Americans is 47 hours. So I suppose I'm right at the average for an American with a job.
In the end, though, teaching just isn't the kind of work you measure in hours. Thanks to texts and tweets, you're never fully off the job. My students email me 24/7 to ask things and they expect quick responses. I don't always comply, especially if it's a question like Hey, is something due tomorrow? or What are we supposed to read for Wednesday? That syllabus I labored on last summer was supposed to eliminate such questions, but it rarely does.
I also spend a great deal of time mulling things over: why didn't that work? How am I going to engage a room full of 19-year olds? Are they really getting it? As a result the definition of 'on the clock' in teaching seems fairly elastic. We would all be rich if we were paid with billable hours.