Saturday, January 11, 2020

Planning time priority

As a principal, I tried to be cognizant of stealing planning times from teachers.  Cognizant doesn't mean that I followed the rules.  In Texas, in the simplest explanation possible, teachers must have:
  • 450 minutes of planning time every two weeks
  • during the instructional day
  • each planning time must be a minimum of 45 minutes.
This time shall not be infringed upon by the administration.  But it happens.  I did it as a principal.  It is almost impossible to get away from.

Many districts offer 50 minute planning times on a daily basis.  This means that one day every two weeks may be required for team meetings, learning sessions, or any other reason deemed by campus administration.  The remaining nine days give the teacher 450 minutes.  This is a lawful practice.  It is still hard to live by.

Years ago, as a principal, I required weekly team meetings.  I was unlawful.  I also did not work around holding ARD meetings and 504 meetings during conference times.  Unlawful.  And there were always several other things that required teacher attendance during their conference times.  I broke the rules.  

Undoubtedly, many teachers would rather do many of these things during their conference time instead of fulfilling the requirements after dismissal.  Legally, this is not a choice any teacher should consider.  Legally, teachers should be able to opt out of anything that does not follow the legal requirements.

This rarely happens.  I'd love to hear about a principal who has figured out how to lawfully honor teacher planning time in elementary school.  I know some principals are better than others.  I don't know any campus leaders who have been able to make this happen.

I know a lot of teachers who are more than frustrated by their lack of planning time.  A 2013 study found that teachers in the US spend a great deal more time actually teaching and they get less time to plan for instruction.  I am not saying we should be like any other country.  I am saying that other countries seem to value the importance of planning time more than this country.

What can school leaders do?
  • Ensure that your teachers have as much voice as possible in their planning time activity
  • Do not require meetings during planning time in order to communicate information that can be sent in writing
  • Do not require meetings during planning time for activities that you can do for the teachers.  For example, don't ask teachers to meet to verify student test codes or create class lists
  • Create schedules that extend planning time for team meetings.  Be creative with your specials schedule
  • If you attend required meetings during planning time, be sure to fully participate in the meeting.  Don't multi-task.  Don't be silent.  Be a part of the team or better yet, leave them alone sometimes.  If you are always present, the team cannot grow organically
  • Always consider the best possible way to clear the path for better lesson design during planning time.  Do not create barriers!

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