Monday, November 24, 2014

I miss my planning period.

When I first started teaching fifteen years ago, teachers used their planning periods to actually plan for classes and grade papers.  But planning periods are consumed with meetings.

Last year, our school decided that core content departments (which are assessed as part of the state-mandated assessment) needed common planning periods.  When the idea was first introduced, we were going to meet for at least half of our plan once or twice a month and then we'd be able to informally collaborate with our peers the rest of the time.

It quickly became a meeting for our entire planning period every few weeks.   Now we've been told that we need to make sure we leave our common planning periods "free" for any departmental meetings--for additional full department meetings as well as grade level meetings.

That in and of itself is not too bad.  Frustrating but not without value.

Adding in the other meetings and encroachment on our planning periods...that's where I'm starting to have major problems--even though some of those meetings are important.

We've started having what we call "vertical team" meetings.  We meet with the middle school teachers to work on smoothing out the rough transition to high school.  We're also attempting to align our curriculum 6-12--a tall order.    We only have these four times per year but the problem comes from the fact that someone has to monitor our classes during this time.  Instead of paying for subs (because there's a lack of funds for those), teachers who have planning periods during that time are required to cover the classes of the teachers who are in meetings.  With four departments having these meetings, it adds up...and it seems like the same teachers are always tasked with covering classes.

Then factor in our new "effectiveness" system which requires peer evaluations. (And can we just call it what it is?  An evaluation system but that's an topic for another day.)  We will give up a portion of our planning period to observe our colleagues in action; we also need to complete a pre & post observation conference with them.

And we cannot forget the IEP meetings--I actually feel bad for the secretary who has to schedule those. With all the other meetings, she sometimes struggles to staff the IEP conferences.

This week, I will have my full planning period once and that's with midterm grades due on Friday.

I've had a grade level department meeting today.  Tomorrow, I will have meeting with middle school teachers, which will be followed by a full faculty meeting after school (Yea). On Thursday, I'm scheduled to cover a math class (poor children--I am of no use to them in there.) while the math department enjoys their vertical team meeting. Then to wrap up the week, I will evaluate a colleague in another department.  Fortunately, she's also a friend because between my meetings and hers, we've had to get creative for our pre-observation conference; I may end up at her house for the post-observation.

At some point, I have to verify that all of my grades are up to date and contact the parents of struggling students.  I have at least two scholarship essays that students need me to proofread and letters of recommendation to compose.  Plus I have students serving in-school suspension who need work and need a visit from me--so I can explain that work.

It is infinitely frustrating.

After fifteen years, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on my content and on sharing it with my students but I still need time to plan.  I also need time to grade the assignments of approximately 190 students. I stay after school for at least an hour each day but at some point, I have to do laundry, wash dishes and tackle the chores of every day life.

I cannot imagine how rookie teachers handle it.  I have fifteen years worth of resources and experience to draw from.  If needs be, I can come up with something worthwhile for my students do on the fly.  A 1st year teacher does not have that yet.

I don't know how my colleagues with children manage it.  If I spend hours in the evening grading, only the dogs are annoyed and a scruff behind the ear will make up for it--they cannot do that with small children.

This just feels like one more element of disrespect for this profession.

Our time is not valued.

I don't blame by our administration.  They are just as overwhelmed and just as frustrated as their time is devoured as well. 

No wonder so many teachers leave the profession early.