At “T minus 2”, I begin sifting through the calendars and emails about upcoming meetings, lunch duty schedules, curriculum planning updates, and more.
As I enter dates into my plan book and Google calendar, I remember the year that I was a substitute teacher. I arrived at 7:30 and left at 3:30 with all papers graded, plans for the next day solidified, and specific anecdotal notes on the progress of each child. I often wondered, Why is it that, when I teach full time, I stay until 5:00 and never feel caught up?
This post is a stream-of-consciousness post to try and understand the reasons.
Meetings (Estimated time: 3 hours per week)
Teachers often have at least two other weekly meetings. Teams or grade levels meet weekly for “business” stuff. In a data-driven school, teams and grade levels meet regularly to analyze student work and discuss implications for future instruction.
Regular faculty meetings build upon the pre-service meetings and grade-level meetings. Faculty meetings are also used to vertically align grade-level curriculum and instruction. What did the grade levels see as they analyzed student work and student data? Based on these analyses, what can we conclude about the strengths and weaknesses in our programs? What are the implications for future instruction? Future professional development?
Then there are the work meetings after the meetings. Based on the analysis of student work, teams might decide they need to gather more resources or research in a particular area. They need time to discuss and digest the new information. Following professional development meetings, teachers prepare classrooms for instructional changes. And, teachers need to plan for new assessments so that they are prepared for the next round of student work and student data analysis.
Curriculum Planning (Estimated time: 3 to 4 hours per week)
Sometimes I miss textbooks. When I taught with textbooks, my plan book listed page numbers and outcomes. Admittedly, my students became really good at reading and answering questions. Here is an example of what students left knowing: The Montillation of Traxoline. Poor kids. I wish I could do those first years over.
Now, every unit is focused on Essential Questions and Enduring Understanding. Each lesson has a teaching point anchored to a standard or benchmark. Common assessments are created. Materials need to be gathered. Lessons should be differentiated.
The good news is that we do all this planning in teams. The bad news is that these planning sessions take time – both to organize a unit and to collect (and sometimes write) materials.
The Email Trap (Estimated time: 5 to 6 hours per week)
My inbox by priority:
- Emails from parents
- Emails about meetings
- Emails about school procedural stuff (overseas ordering, laminator update, duty schedules, etc.)
- Email feeds for blogs I regularly read (the extra click to the RSS feed is too easily forgotten or pushed aside)
- My poor husband and friends (they know to send an SMS if something needs an immediate read)
Duties (Minimal, but significant)
My current school is a dream – I have one lunch duty every couple of weeks. That said, I notice when I miss that 20 minutes of prep time. How did I survive in schools where I had daily recess and lunch duties? What got pushed aside in the schools where I didn’t have a teaching assistant to do my copying and my bulletin boards? These duties can add anywhere from 2 to 6 hours per week.
Helping others (Estimated time: 1-2 hours per week)
I’m so thankful that “helping colleagues” is a natural part of my team’s culture. Colleagues and I discuss everything from student concerns to technology updates to curriculum short-cuts, and more. We share professional books. We look over student work and discuss lessons that go awry. We share resources. My students benefit from my discussions with colleagues – but the discussions happen during prep time.
The Stuff That Goes Wrong (2-3 hours per week)
It happens. The laminator film runs out. Technology crashes. Students have meltdowns. Stuff happens. Expect it.
The principals at my school do their best to eliminate roadblocks that suck time from planning, instruction, and assessment. The lack of extra duties is a testament to that. I feel truly blessed with about six hours of prep time per week.
I’m not sure what else could be eliminated. Even with teacher aids and minimal duties, teachers clock roughly 14 work hours per week apart from direct contact with students.
I am at school. It is 6 pm. I haven’t even started grading papers or prepping lessons…