Common Planning Time: Accomplishing Nothing

Judging by the title of today’s blog post, I am sure people are thinking our common planning time meetings are pointless. Let me clear the air by saying I do believe we have the capability of being productive and, at times, we do incredible work with the hour and fifteen minutes. I work with some amazing teachers and I am no way discrediting or disrespecting them.

Our middle school staff has a very unique situation in being able to have this common planning time where we can all meet at the end of the day to discuss a variety of topics from assessments to lesson plans to discipline issues with students. There are many occasions this time is used for other things. For example, individual student IEPs need to take place, we have a monthly staff meeting during this time, we have department meetings once a month, on certain days teachers need time to correct papers (yes, this includes me), and we even have vendors come in to talk about new products we might be able to use for our school and students. All of the above mentioned are valid reasons for us to miss collaboration time with just ourselves as a staff, and at times, unavoidable. Furthermore, this year has been rather tricky due to new teaching assignments for all of our staff in the middle school.

The days we do meet, we tend to (pardon the expression) bitch about the problems we are having with certain students in our class (again, I am guilty of this too). Others are grading papers while we are meeting, we constantly try to talk over each other and we take advantage of this time to do our own personal chores. What are we doing? I understand we need to vent at times and find out if others are having the same problem, but it doesn’t make the student more successful if we just complain about them. This time needs to be used more wisely.

If we don’t use this time efficiently, we are going to lose the privilege of having a common planning time in future years. Personally and professionally, I want to see this time used to plan cross curricular units and lessons. In addition, I want us to meet about how to make students more successful. We need to be pulling more students in and finding out why they are failing classes or what we can do to make them more successful. We are going to have more students slipping through the cracks if we don’t get a hold of them and help them.

Our own selfish motives constantly come into the picture and it is understandable. It has always been said it takes a community to raise a child. Yes, it does. However, it also takes a teacher, a student, and a parent to educate a child. Not just a teacher, but many teachers. If we want to build relationships with students and at the risk of losing our advisory time next year, this time could be used to help build more relationships with students.

I propose we designate at least 1 day a week to meet as an entire middle school staff. Furthermore, an agenda should be created prior to the days meeting and distributed via email or google doc to allow items to be added. Having an agenda should help to create a more organized atmosphere and keep us on track.

I don’t claim to have all the answers or saying I am not guilty of doing some of the items mentioned. I do know we are heading down the path of negative thoughts and patterns and we need to get back on track and do what is best for our students. I am open to any suggestions from other educators.

Cheers!