The Myth of Teacher Planning Time

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

The contract between my local education association and school district regarding Teacher Planning Time specifically states that:

“professional employees shall be scheduled for a minimum of 200 minutes per week of planning time during the student day. Planning time shall be scheduled in blocks of not less than thirty (30) minutes. In the elementary schools, planning time shall be scheduled on a minimum of four (4) days out of five (5) days during a week.”

That means our schedule allots 43 duty-free, student-free, and unaccounted for minutes a day.

For some, they think it’s a travesty that we’re not “working” during this time. They’ll scoff at the notion that teachers only work a “7.5 hour day” and, in that time, they only meet with kids for 5, 6, or – the newest game to the education system – 7 classes.

But that amount of planning times just simply is not enough.

that amount of planning times just simply is not enough Click To Tweet

Just in the past week, I’ve been trying to keep track of exactly how I’ve dedicated my planning time and the 30 minute lunch I’m granted. Here was my week, Monday through Friday:

  1. Always first is — use the bathroom!
  2. Next is always answered emails.
  3. Met with a student and their parents with a child study, as the student has been in need of acute psychological care.
  4. Created a curriculum packet for my 13-year-old students, as it’s much more interesting than the textbook that is older than they are.
  5. Sent the packet out for copies (electronically). Did it wrong because I was rushed.
  6. Enlarge a few copies of the packet for a student who has severe sight issues. Manually.
  7. More emails.
  8. Call the homes of the four students who are currently failing my class.
  9. Sent a copy of the bi-weekly update I send to parents.
  10. Pulled several of those students from class to complete the project we’ve been working on in class and yet they can’t seem to complete, either on my time or their own.
  11. Had to collect work for the fifteen students who have missed more than 2 days of school because of the flu, and walk it down to the office for them.
  12. Emails. Again.
  13. Moved the desks twice for a new activity in class.
  14. Made some last minute copies for students who lost their rubrics.
  15. Grabbed a snack.
  16. Asked a colleague how they plan on teaching an upcoming topic.
  17. Called my son’s pediatrician, since they’re only open during teaching hours.
  18. Fixed some decorations in the classroom.
  19. Cleared out my physical inbox.
  20. Wrote my lesson plans.
  21. Submitted my lesson plans to my supervisor.
  22. Created an online quiz (I don’t have time to grade quizzes anymore).
  23. Graded 37 projects (15 more to go!)
  24. Wrote two letters of recommendation.
  25. EMAILS!
  26. Planned a special guest to visit the students.
  27. Set-up Remind updates for homework announcements.
  28. Place a tech work order for broken technology.
  29. Put together a new packet of information for a new student who’s joining class.
  30. Sat down and chatted with a colleague who’s going through some personal strife.
  31. Read a graphic novel we’re looking to incorporate into next week’s curriculum.
  32. Registered students for the National History Day regional competition.
  33. Discussed a student’s behavior with my assistant principal.
  34. Discussed an action plan with school counselor.
  35. Pulled the props for our reader’s theater play.
  36. Asked for a re-evaluation of a student’s IEP with the learning support teacher.
  37. Sent home 25 emails to parents providing positive feedback to the students.
  38. Read the news in hopes of connecting it to the history curriculum.
  39. Met with the team to have an informal meeting about a rule change.
  40. Went to the office to congratulate on of our secretaries on being awarded staff member of the year.
  41. Observed another teacher’s lesson (for their feedback).
  42. Met with a teacher who observed my lesson (for my feedback).
  43. Met with my “Kitchen Cabinet” of students for suggestions.
  44. Cleaned the broken bits of pencil from the ground.
  45. E.m.a.i.l.s.
  46. Wished a few staff members happy birthday.
  47. Hunted down a student who skipped my assigned lunch detention.
  48. Ate. With my colleagues.
  49. Ate. With the office staff.
  50. Ate. With some of the students.
  51. Ate. While trying to do three other things at my computer.
  52. Tweaked the lesson plan for tomorrow.
  53. And the next day.
  54. Pulled – to cover lunch duty.
  55. Pulled – apprende French.
  56. Pulled – to teach PE.
  57. Oh God, there are more emails?

There’s become this public perception that the planning time we have during the school day is where all the teachers walk slowly down to the faculty room, light up a smoke, kick up their feet, and gossip about the kids. Teachers have given (wrongfully) to the idea that our planning time is something that can be sacrificed by mandated items. I’m sorry to note, but if you’re told to do something during planning time, it’s not planning time. It’s a directive.

Protect your planning time from the myths of what they are not.

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By | 2017-02-20T13:13:51+00:00 February 23rd, 2017|Classroom Leadership, Educational Reform, Educator Professionalism|2 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

2 Comments

  1. Mike February 23, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    This article is a terrifically horrific account of a typical teacher’s day. I’m not sure where the idea that teachers harbor all sorts of free time comes from, but we have to be raising more awareness of the truth. This article represents that truth.

    Jake, or others, how do we bridge the gap between the truth and the misconceptions?

  2. Amy February 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    AMEN!

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