For the past several years, my principal has decided that teachers don’t have enough to do, so instead of being able to utilize our entire prep time to grade and prepare for our upcoming classes, we have to do special prep duties. Initially these duties required us to spend time in other teacher’s classrooms, helping out when needed.
In theory, this was not a bad idea. Many of our classes are fairly large. Last semester I had a class of 32 and my poor co-worker across the hall had one of 39. Several members of our social studies department have classes over 40 and some of our PE courses number in the 50’s. Those are classroom management nightmares even for the most experienced teachers. So, the idea was that with an additional teacher in the room for some combination of 120 minutes a week, teachers could break the class into smaller groups and each teacher could supervise the smaller groups. Or, the additional teacher could work one on one with someone who was struggling. Or maybe the additional teacher could supervise students who needed to make up a test so that the rest of the class could keep moving.
Again, in theory, this didn’t sound awful. The problem, is that many teachers didn’t actually need any additional help and even for those who might, the “helper” teacher giving prep duty time wasn’t well-enough versed with the particular information being taught on a daily basis to help.
Now, I know what some people are thinking: if you are a teacher shouldn’t you be able to teach any topic in your subject area. Yes, with the right amount of preparation, you pretty much should be. The flaw, however, is that we were already giving up preparation for our own classes and to expect us to do all the reading to prepare for someone else’s classes is a beyond ridiculous. For example, I have read the Odyssey several times. I taught it for about 8 years. But, that was 12 years ago. I haven’t read or taught it and while I know the basic story, there is no way that I can walk into someone else’s classroom and just start teaching the excerpt the kids are working on. Not without actually reading and analyzing it ahead of time. About the only help I was able to give was supervising small groups, which didn’t need to happen 120 minutes each week.
For the most part, I ended up just sitting in the back of a classroom, not helping anyone and not getting further behind in my work.
These issues were looked into and my principal amended prep duty to cover a much larger variety of activities and reduced the time to 100 minutes a week. While this was much better, it still meant a lot of work I had to take home with me. Still, I was pretty ok with this plan. I always did my prep duty work and actually got some very meaningful collaborative projects created with our librarian and some of my fellow department members. I was also able to create some great resources for other members of my department.
When we came back from winter break, we found out that prep duty time was changing once again. This time, it would be cut down to 75 minutes a week, which sounds so much better in theory. However, we no longer had any say in what we would do during this time. I was assigned lunch duty.
So, every other week, I get to spend 30 minutes each day supervising lunch. While it is technically 150 minutes of duty time, since it is every other week, it works out to only 75 minutes a week, so it balances with other teachers who have bus duty or hallway duty for 15 minutes each day.
The problem, aside from the several very nasty confrontations with students that have required me to get a security officer AND the fact that I am the only staff member in my group who shows up on time to do their duty, is that because of the way they “every other week” schedule is put together, those of us on lunch duty actually end up doing an extra week of duty time each grading period (75 additional minutes each quarter). AND, because the administrators schedule everyone who has lunch duty on the rotating schedule to duty time during the first week of the grading period to help with the transition into the new grading period, it means that I am doing 3 weeks of lunch duty in a row.
I had to do lunch duty the week of finals. So, rather than getting to use my prep to get my finals together or grade them, I got to take that work home with me over spring break to complete. I also have lunch duty all this week since it is the start of a new grading period. AND, my group was picked to be the first rotating group, so I have lunch duty all next week as well. Losing 150 minutes of grading/prep time for three weeks in a row is a pretty serious issue. I am having to take more and more work home with me just to keep up. My regular 55 hour work weeks are becoming 60 hour work weeks and that is starting to seriously impact both my family and my morale. It’s hard to want to create innovative teaching materials when my time is being eaten up by lunch duty and grading.
Last quarter I wasn’t able to introduce a single new project or assignment. I did the exact same thing in all my classes that I’d done the year before. I have a feeling the same will be true this grading period. I really wish that my extra duties to the school would actually benefit my students. I have no problem giving extra time to improve my students’ education. However, I seriously resent my time being taken from my students.