What teachers do

On Friday, I received an email from CPS about the four furlough days that they are putting in place between now and the end of the school year. The letter states that “we will do everything within our control to minimize disruptions to classrooms”. And yes, they are not furloughing any days with student attendance. But it makes me wonder- what do CPS administrators think that teachers do? For that matter, what do non-teachers in general think that teachers do?

I’m annoyed at losing pay, yes. (I think CPS effectively gains back the back pay they gave us after the new contract was put in place, and then some.) But I’m more annoyed by losing the time and place to prepare. How can we say that this type of cut isn’t disruptive to classrooms? Teaching goes beyond just showing up for class.

The furlough days are coming at the end of each quarter from here until the end of the school year. I’m not losing time in front of students, but I’m losing prep time. And let’s be honest, I’ll probably be prepping on those days regardless of being paid or not. But having access to the classroom is actually really important in being prepared, in making sure that the instructional time (which is supposedly not being affected) will be useful. Besides, I’m pretty convinced that just instructional time alone isn’t the big factor in student achievement, but rather the quality of that instructional time (supported by this research brief).

What do I do with those “school improvement” days? (And as an aside- if they cut “school improvement days”, what does that tell you about how the district values schools improving from within?)

Yes, I grade. I use the time to make sure that all of my grades are accurate and updated, particularly at the end of a marking period. But that isn’t all I’m doing when I’m not in front of students. I lesson plan. I map out the unit, see if we are meeting the learning goals, see if the pacing makes sense. I modify, update, design activities to meet those learning goals. I write and modify assessments. I prepare my classroom for all of those activities- and the more interactive the activity, the more time and energy it takes to prepare (and I do a lot of interactive activities). And I do all of these things with my subject teams- I’m not working in isolation, I’m working with a whole team of teachers to improve instruction for all of our students. Needless to say, having time built into the school year for these “non-instructional” activities is actually quite important.

I’m particularly annoyed right now about losing the day at the end of first semester, because I was planning on starting second semester with a lab. And while I’m thinking about how to still make it work, prepping a lab is something I definitely cannot do out of my own classroom. I will probably still make it work- by staying late the day before, or coming in on the “furlough” day if our principal opens the building. I’m certainly not gaining an “extra” day off.

There was a poem going around the internet a while ago about “What Teachers Make” (beautifully illustrated by ZenPencils). I just want to add that to make all of those things happen, teachers spend an awful lot of time getting ready for class. The time I spend in front of students is a small part of what I actually do. I just wish that others, particularly those in charge of making district-wide decisions, knew exactly what teachers do.

4 thoughts on “What teachers do

    • The union is organizing, but last year they put us on furlough for 3 days and there wasn’t really anything done about it, so I’m guessing we’ll go through with the 4 furlough days this year.

  1. […] So I don’t know how I feel about the “work to rule” thing. Overall, it’s been stressful and I doubt that it will result in any real action or notice from those in power (the school district office, the school board, the state…) While it highlights for me how much time and energy I spend on school outside the school day, I wonder if it really lets those outside the teaching profession know how much goes into that 6.25 hr school day. And it’s not that I didn’t know how many hours I spent outside of my “paid” time doing work, or that I ever expected my day to start at 7:50 and end at 3:30. There’s no way to spend 4.5 hrs a day teaching and also have the classes be well prepped and assignments graded in a reasonable time frame. I just wonder what the best way is to drive this point home to those decision makers who seem to have no idea what teachers actually do… […]

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