How Are We Supposed To Accept The Unacceptable As K-12 Teachers?

published on 13 January 2023

Daily in your school, you’re likely facing circumstances that feel unfair, inequitable, or just plain wrong to you. 

The lack of planning time is abysmal.

Unrealistic expectations grow and mount your anxiety even higher.

Patterns of disrespect repeat regarding your professionalism.
Chances are, many of those issues are structural.

Don’t you agree?
It’s like these factors are out of reach and can’t be fixed …

Even if they could be fixed, there’s not much that you, one teacher, personally could do.

Ever thought this?

Painted into a corner by structural challenges?

I did as a teacher!

In a K-12 district I student taught in; the planning time was cut from four hours a week to one hour a week. This was a “funding change from the state on an elementary level”. My mentor teacher at the time grumbled and shared with me that her sister that taught in the same district got the same amount of planning time and nothing changed on the junior high level. She used me to help with the adjustments; other teachers on that team were not so lucky. The teachers in that district really struggled with the lack of prep heading into the pandemic, as was presented on the news in the state I was living in at least once a month for the first few months of the pandemic.

According to the National Council of Teacher Quality,

“ The time that a teacher has during the school day to plan lessons has not changed significantly over the last decade. The vast majority of districts grant their teachers time roughly equivalent to one class period per day for the purpose of planning: 47 minutes on average for elementary school teachers, and 51 minutes for secondary teachers. This is only two minutes longer than the average planning time that teachers in elementary grades had in 2015, and no real difference for teachers in secondary schools.”

When the pandemic hit, 47 minutes on average planning time for elementary schools  turned into approximately 30 minutes while secondary school teachers only saw a 5-7 minute dip into their planning time according to Forbes.

A little over 45 percent of large school districts across the country didn’t address this lack of planning, like the school district I student taught in even throughout the years of the pandemic.

Luckily the school that I was at during my first year of teaching had granted their previously reduced planning time across the board, but specifically at the elementary level. Not everybody was as lucky.

When I left the classroom, I found an employer that did not look for ways to cut out my collaboration time with my coworkers nor interrupted me with the hour-long lunch they gave me.

My current employer doesn’t accept the unacceptable.

I am so grateful for that.

It’s great you get a 30-minute lunch, but wouldn’t it be even nicer to have a uninterrupted hour lunch?

It’s great that you have some planning time now, but wouldn’t it be even better if your planning time was guaranteed and never reduced based on the legislation in your state?

This is a difficult time to be living in (much less teaching in) and navigating less-than-ideal circumstances constantly can be draining. 

We can’t fix all the problems right now, but the way we show up in the world each day matters. We are still here, and there’s a purpose to that. Our willingness to be present in the discomfort and pain, to keep engaging, to keep showing up … it makes a difference.



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