Believe it or not, the start of school is just around the corner. We are scheduled to begin preplanning next week, but that may change in light of the latest actions of our beloved governor. According to the link, we may be looking at a reduction in work (and pay) for 3 days and it is extremely likely that at least some of those days will come at the expense of preplanning.
No doubt, this economy is a giant crap sandwich and everybody is going to have to take a bite. However, preplanning is about the worst possible sacrifice we could make. As it is, I was staring in the face of a massive shortage of time to get ready. In fact, in my building we are now looking at a perfect storm of chaos the likes of which we have never seen before.
It started last year, when the school board decided everyone was going to be on a block schedule. Not a huge deal for me, but it was and will still entail a considerable about of time retooling and retraining all of us. This would be part of preplanning. Next, our building is the oldest high school in the county and was supposed to be undergoing major rennovations over the summer. That meant thet my paras and I spent days and days packing up all of our stuff into boxes and labeliling all our shelves and cabinets and moving these things to storage. Then, in reaction to the budget woes, the school cut para preplanning to one day, which is the day of our open house. So now I am looking at having to reassemble my classrooom and all of our stuff by myself. And then there is an annoying email informing us to NOT come in early because the construction crews are not finished yet.
In addition to training on the block schedule, there has to be at least one school-wide meeting lasting several hours, a department meeting lasting hours and a district-wide special-ed meeting lasting half a day.
Basically, we’re totally screwed all around.
So now I’m noodling how to respond to all of this. First off, that email about the construction not being finished; I’m going to go in anyway to pick up my mail and to see how deeply my classroom area is affected. If it’s not, I need to get started because it took 4 of us several days to pack and I haven’t the time to spare. Next week will be a bust regardless. One silver lining might be that if the board decides to take a day or two off the top, I can still go in without having to worry about the inane meetings.
Heaven help the new teachers who are going through their new teacher orientation this week. Orientation is SO crucial to them in getting to know the school, colleagues, administrators, procedures and just getting ready for the kids. Truncating that transition for them will be costly down the road even more than for the rest of us who have been through past openings and have some semblance of an idea of what is involved.
There are some ways that some aspects of preplanning could be streamlined:
– New teachers need to be introduced. Have each make a short video bio and post it on our intranet so we don’t need a meeting to see it. Now that I think about it, ALL teachers could do that, and it would benefit everyone in knowing each other throughout the year.
– Replace meetings with video presentations. Last year our superintendent did that, and it worked very well, except the principal still called us all together to watch it. We need to be in our rooms working, instead of waiting for a video to start. The principal did one video last year, and I thought it worked well. There’s no reason for taking up a lot of face time if we are not expected to interact. In other words, administrators rarely want to field many questions during a faculty meeting and such questions could be fielded online in the open for future reference.
-Get memos and notices out electonically and early. We always have to submit a syllabus, information and course descriptions. Many of these could be done collaborative on the intranet (Sharepoint).
Special educators also have a huge stack of files to go through for new students, and get assorted medical and emergency plans ready for them. Our paperwork machinery is already ginning out new forms and data collection precedures even while I’m writing. Just finding a place for all the paperwork and forms is a chore!
So what it really means is that teachers will be doing what we alaways have been doing; donating a ton of time to the service of our students. It’s just going to be especially intense this fall.