Detention Monitor: At my first school, I was responsible for my own detentions. Only the serious offenders were assigned an hour-long detention with a compensated teacher by the assistant principal. Everyone else served with the individual teacher. Guess what happened? Detention was not an effective consequence. The students weren’t deterred; teachers rarely assigned detentions because they couldn’t commit; the administration didn’t hold anyone accountable. Therefore, “minor” infractions were ignored, and before long, the school was filled with students constantly disrupting education.
Formal Lesson Plans: Why do administrators demand a cryptic lesson plan if no one looks at them? At my first school, teachers had to post their lesson plans online Sunday night. Whenever a parent asked about class activities, I directed them to my website, but the next month, the same parent contacted me again, having completely ignored the website. When I asked if we had a positive response to posting our lesson plans, teachers said there was no difference. At my last school, we had to send our lesson plans to the department chair by Monday afternoon, so he/she could store them in a folder. No one commented on our lesson plans; we received no criticism; our principal still had no idea about the curriculum’s content. With no accountability, teachers stopped writing them (only to be reprimanded for it later). Furthermore, given the administrator-mandated format and its codes, I hardly understood my lesson plans, let alone a colleague’s. Easily, I’d spend a couple of hours on these meaningless lesson plans.
Last year, I gave myself an hour to write them, and if I didn’t finish, then I submitted them incomplete. Because guess what…I had more important items on my to-do list. I asked my principal what was the purpose of the lesson plans, and she said, “To keep the teachers accountable.” When I asked her how writing these lesson plans did that, she responded, “It ensures that teachers don’t come in and fly by the seat of their pants.” Does it? I know some teachers who copied the same lesson plans each week just to test the administration, and other teachers frequently changed their plans, so they submitted the document at the end of the week. Finally, I asked my principal if research supported this practice, and she couldn’t answer me.
Professional Development: I watched our PD days deteriorate. Last year I joined the PD Committee in order to be part of the solution, but we were just a group for the principal to hide behind. We’d spend meetings pouring over survey results. The committee fought for the teachers’ needs (technology instruction, time to write curriculum, time to collaborate, data-analysis instruction), but the principal wanted to follow her own agenda (and to this day, I can’t explain what that was). I remember the day I lost faith in Professional Development: during a meeting, the principal said, “Professional Development isn’t about the teachers; it’s about student growth.” I was ready to storm out. In order to affect student growth, the teachers need to develop. The teachers had identified weaknesses that directly affected the students, and the administration was ignoring them. After talking to several teacher friends, I’ve realized it is the same at most schools. Teachers are not being developed during PD days. Once again, Public Education has lost sight of its purpose.
Grade Check Emails to Parents: I love partnering with parents to help a student be more successful. However, I don’t enjoy parenting my students. Easily, I spent at least three hours a week checking grades and emailing parents about students who were failing or missing work. The grade book was online! A parent had a few students to monitor, but I had over one hundred! Yet, if I didn’t email parents, then I opened the door of liability for the school. Parents’ irresponsibility should not be added to a teacher’s responsibilities. I regularly updated my grade book, so students and parents could be informed. Parents need to do their part by consulting the resources provided to them.
Committees: Teacher-led committees can greatly impact a district, but I haven’t seen it done. At my last school, we met in committees once a month (during contracted time), and some committees chose to complete work outside of that time, but most didn’t. With eight hours throughout the year, how effective can a committee be? As a committee leader, I was the rope in an excruciating tug-of-war game: Teachers vs Administrators. Administrators pulled the teachers in one direction, but the teachers resisted by pointing out flaws and questioning the purpose. I’d ask my committee members to complete tasks outside of our monthly meetings, but I tried to keep the list short, and therefore, I ended up completing most of the work. My team pointed out that nothing ever came from the committees. Even though we’d present to the principal or the Board of Education, no one saw any change. So why try? Well, the committee was a box that needed to be checked.
What if the FLSA law applied to teachers? Can you imagine only working forty hours a week? Can it be done and still effectively impact our students? Considering that most school days last seven hours, our system would need a drastic makeover. Every week teachers work overtime, but how are they compensated? With more meaningless work. For this reason, teacher burnout is a serious epidemic. Administrators and teachers need work together to lighten the load. What tasks don’t lead us to our purpose? What tasks don’t impact students? What tasks are for appearances only? Give the teachers more time to complete the necessary demands of the job.