The Life of Bon: Lost Instruction Time: What Does Your School Do?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Lost Instruction Time: What Does Your School Do?

We survived October at the high school.  October's weird.  There are a lot of random days off. There's a fall break, a day off for parent teacher conference, a day off for end of the quarter. And then there's also a lot of assemblies, a PLAN test, and some random stuff the counselors have to do in my classroom, eating up our instruction time.  This year I have absolutely gone to battle over lost instruction time.  At our school the counselors have an amazing and detailed system in place for seniors to make sure that every student knows about scholarship opportunities, college deadlines, admission procedures, graduation requirements etc, etc, etc.  I think it is great and I love that they do such a good job of not letting students fall through the cracks.

BUT.  All of this comes at the expense of English teaching time. (And in the case of the seniors who are taking my class, their AP Literature instruction time).  English is the only class all students are required to take their senior year, so it makes sense that the best way to get information to every single student is to go through the English classrooms.  Counselors come in every month to give 10 minute presentations about scholarships and deadlines, they pull students out of English class to meet about graduation requirements (last month they took an entire class period to do this), and in a couple of weeks students will miss another entire class period to apply for colleges.  (This is a requirement in the state of Utah that students apply for colleges during school.  I love the idea of it- the execution needs some tweaking.)  The PLAN test was also administered during a B day, meaning that instead of 88 minute classes, we had 32 minute classes on that day.  College day and Josten's graduation assemblies have both been in the morning on B days- eating up that same AP Literature teaching time. 

SO.  I've been very frustrated with the limited time I feel like I've had to teach my AP class this year. 
I am not criticizing the great work that the counselors do- I love how in depth this program is and I wish there would have been something like this at my high school when I was a teenager.  Students at my school are very well informed, they have great relationships with their counselors, and they do not miss out on opportunities for colleges or scholarships.  BUT, I have a very hard time that my class is the one that is always sacrificed to make this happen.  Yesterday in a weird fit of rage I calculated every single minute that my AP Lit class has missed of instruction time due to counseling needs, assemblies, and late start meetings.  (This year my school implemented late start Thursdays for teachers to collaborate, share data, etc.  This means that students do not come to school until 9 am on those days.  Our instruction time each Thursday is cut by 20 minutes and it feels like quite a hit.)  During first quarter I lost 26% of my AP Literature instruction time.  These kids are forking over $100 to try to pass a huge test at the end of the year to earn college credits and they are only getting 74% of the time that they should be getting.  One of my colleagues said it best, " I have to question the wisdom of having students miss significant class time from courses required for graduation in order to learn more about graduation."

I've talked to the administration and counselors about this and we've agreed that a better system probably needs to be put into place, but we're having a bit of a hard time figuring out what that better system is.  I am guessing that the counselors feel like I am threatening the time they need to do their work and I feel like they are threatening the time I need to do my work.  Both works are important!  Certainly we don't have to sacrifice one to have the other?  I'd love to hear from other teachers, administrators or parents with kids in high school... how are you getting all the information you need about college, scholarships, graduation, etc to every high school senior without sacrificing English instruction time?  Give me some ideas so I can go to my principal loaded with solutions, not problems.  I am desperate to get this problem fixed!  I'm about to pull my hair out over here if I don't come up with some plausible solutions STAT.

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