Teachers sound the alarm

Drastic cut to plan time threatens quality education

Sravya Reddy Guda

FRENCH TEACHER BLAIR HOPKINS: They broke it down into phases to sort of make it easier for us to get used to and the first phase just involves monitoring so we start with monitoring at lunch or monitoring in the halls or keeping an eye on whatever part of the building has an activity going on that might need extra people.



HOPKINS: I love Parkway. This has been my favorite teaching job that I’ve ever had, but the burnout can hit you anywhere. In the school that I came from, teachers would leave after two or three years because of the way that it was structured. The turnover was very, very high. So, it’s always a struggle of, of course, I want to do my job the best I can, but I can’t burn myself out. I can’t be exhausted. I can’t have no personal life. I can’t be working every Saturday. I reached a point where I didn’t make any plans during the week. I would only do things on the weekends because on any given Tuesday, I might have to go lie down on the couch and not get up again for an hour. So I tried not to commit to going anywhere in case I was too tired. It was when I realized that was how I was planning my life [that] I was like “Okay, maybe this particular school is not going to be sustainable long-term.” Being here has been much, much, much better. But definitely, when I heard that they are losing all of this plan time, it did start to make me think  “Oh no, oh no, oh no. Please don’t let it become like the place I left because I really want to be here and I really want to be able to do a great job.” I think other teachers have felt that way too.



ENGLISH TEACHER MICHELLE KERPASH: I really can’t imagine [this situation] because when I came to Parkway and [former Deputy Superintendent] Desi Kirchhofer — he was the deputy superintendent of secondary [education] —  and Beth Plunkett interviewed me, the philosophy of Parkway was very simple and very solid: we hire the best and only the best, [then] we get out of their way and we let them teach. And they did. And it’s been amazing for 15 years. This to me is a mark of lack of trust in teachers. If you’ve hired us and you’ve hired the best and you know we’re the best, then you have to trust us to self-manage and self-supervise. Every single adult in this building is here for kids — that controls every decision we make — what’s best for kids. This decision does not align with what’s best for kids in my mind. What’s best for kids is having teachers that are fully planned, fully prepared, can individualize [and] can differentiate to help kids get caught up. That’s what’s best for kids. Having teachers sacrifice 90 minutes a week to patrol hallways is not benefitting your education. 

KERPASH: In order to grow and improve in writing, you have to write multiple drafts. You have to have teacher feedback on that writing and then you have to do something with it. It’s not enough to just get a paper back from a teacher that has a grade and feedback because that feedback doesn’t go anywhere other than the recycle bin. For you to improve as a writer you need to submit a draft, get teacher feedback, make revisions and maybe [revise] yet another time. That can’t just happen on one paper. It has to happen on multiple types of writing over the course of a semester. So, with freshmen that means if we have a novel study and we’re reading a book, there might be three different paragraphs. Even just paragraphs are written and revised and revised before one is ever graded. That level of intensity of feedback —  that is teaching. The teaching is the teacher providing the feedback individually. Some things can be done on the Smart Board as a lesson for the whole class, but so much is individualized. What Parkway has been advocating is differentiated instruction. Parkway has been encouraging us very strongly to meet each learner where they are and advance them forward. Not, here’s an abstract goal and hope everyone gets there —  because some people are already past it and [for] some people that might not be attainable. So, you have to make leveled improvements and the only way to do that is to have the time to give each student individual and specific feedback —  not just ‘good job’ or ‘work on sentence variety.’ You have to be able to tell people, ‘Here try this.’ ‘What if you rephrased it this way?’ And there’s not a canned comment box that will do that for teachers, so we need that time — especially in a writing-heavy course, which is basically anything in this building.



HOPKINS: I do know several teachers already that are planning to give up something that they sponsor because they anticipate not having enough time and/or in protest of losing plan time to draw that line: if I’m being asked to do these things, then that means I can’t do these other things. That’s definitely happening, and that would directly impact students if they no longer have a sponsor for an activity that they’re involved in. I think it could also impact students in terms of morale. I think you can tell if your teacher is stressed or not [and] if your teacher’s enjoying what they’re doing or not. I would hate to see that change, but from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard people say, the morale is already taking a hit because teachers feel a little deflated by, well, it’s just hard to see how we’re gonna do everything we need to do in two-thirds the amount of time we used to have.