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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

What is planning time?

Many librarians are frustrated when trying to schedule collaborative planning time with teachers. We have the best interests of all students and teachers in mind. We have much to offer. What prevents us from meeting regularly? Is the problem us? Don't the teachers want to meet with us? Is there something else preventing planning?

In my school we are very fortunate to be able to schedule all members of a grade level to have simultaneous planning time. All 5 rooms of first graders, for example, attend related arts (P.E., P.E., art, art, or music) at the same time. This enables the counselor, reading specialist, administration, and librarian to meet with them during that 60 minutes. (Several times a month there are extra music and guidance classes, too.)  I meet with grade level teams, then have the flexibility to meet with related arts teachers during their planning times to let them know what happened at the grade level meeting.

Sixty minutes a day sounds like a productive amount of time, but you should know I have never witnessed every teacher getting their full 60 minutes due to student lagging, delays starting, early stopping, and frequent changes. In addition, the teachers have a tremendous list of other hidden duties that you may have forgotten exist. I asked teachers in an informal email to list some of the activities in which they engage during those 60 minutes. Here's their first list and as responses come in, I'll revise this.

The top ten most frequently occurring activities listed were:

  • Phone conferences with parents (takes forever due to only 1 phone line out of the building for all classrooms)
  • Meetings – Attending IEP/S-team meetings for students
  • Plan with teammates re: behavior and academic progress of students
  • Email parents
  • Photocopy seatwork needed
  • Plan lessons for the following week
  • Gather library materials, books, & videos for lessons
  • Grade papers
  • Meet with administration
  • Clean room and straighten

Here is the entire list in alphabetical order:

  • Change bulletin boards
  • Check my mailbox in office
  • Clean MY desk and organize files
  • Clean room and straighten
  • Complete attendance referral paperwork
  • Complete paperwork for logging money & reimbursements
  • Complete paperwork for students or administration (field trips, leave, incidents)
  • Complete progress reports/report cards – handwritten
  • Contact local businesses to locate free art donations/ supplies
  • Count money
  • Create centers
  • Create displays
  • Create examples for art lessons
  • Create power point presentations to show new lessons and promote technology standards
  • Create signs
  • Create signs, displays, fax cover letters, web banners, and other visual art for the betterment of our school
  • Create word cards or other need materials for lesson activities
  • Eat the lunch we didn't get to eat by the time we helped 5 yr olds through the lunch line
  • Email community partners
  • Email from administration – read
  • Email parents
  • Gather art supplies for projects (cut, count, create signs, clean art trays,)
  • Gather library materials and books
  • Gather materials from the book room
  • Gather math materials
  • Get a soda
  • Get called in to help in cafeteria for breakfast
  • Go to the restroom (Come on! You know this should rank first!)
  • Grade papers
  • Grades – justify
  • Grades enter in computer
  • Have students stop by to see what we are doing for class
  • Let someone in that locked themselves out of the building when they went to get something out of their car
  • Load the kiln
  • Look & Look & Look for materials to make a concept more interesting
  • Meet – Attend IEP/S-team meetings for students
  • Meet with administration
  • Phone conferences with parents (takes forever due to only 1 phone line)
  • Photocopies of seatwork needed for the week
  • Plan & adjust schedule to fit into programs, be flexible
  • Plan activities to go with my lessons
  • Plan field trips
  • Plan for aligning lessons with standards
  • Plan guided reading lessons
  • Plan lessons for the following week
  • Plan with counselor
  • Plan with our library media specialist (ranked 14 out of this huge list)
  • Plan with our reading specialist
  • Plan with teammates re behavior and academic progress of students
  • Prepare layouts for volunteers to help with memory books
  • Prepare student work folders to go home (communicate with parents)
  • Prepare work for absent students
  • Print photographs for memory books
  • Print pictures for teachers
  • Pump for nursing baby
  • Read educational magazines for new ideas
  • Research ideas for lessons on the computer
  • Register for workshops online
  • Review what was done last week
  • Sharpen pencils (about 10-15 minutes every day)
  • Students – Deal with discipline
  • Students – Deal with learning issues
  • Students – Make up tests & work from absences
  • Students – Take temperatures
  • Translate for Spanish speaking parents' meetings & phone calls
  • Try to find my sanity
  • Work on school yearbook
  • Write explanations for our projects to promote the program
  • Write newsletters
  • Write permission slips for field trips


  1. Carolyn's Comment says:

    Posted on behalf of Carolyn Foote:

    In conversations with teachers at my campus, the same issue of time
    keeps recurring.

    There is quite a long discussion on in Classroom 2.0 about
    obstacles for teachers regarding technology and then about ways to
    overcome the obstacles which has been very interesting in relation to
    your comments here. But that conversation highlights the same issue of
    lack of teacher time.

    This is where having your administrator’s support for training can make a difference. Our principal is trying to modify the school day schedule
    to provide more staff development time within the work day. That isn’t
    a cure all but it definitely will create a space for some joint planning
    and teacher training as well.

    I think looking at creative ways with an administrator to reduce some of
    the teacher tasks so that they can focus more on their professional
    responsibilities is key.

    One school I visited had secretaries for teachers–3 departments shared
    one secretary, but then they had a person who could help prepare
    handouts, deliver messages, talk with students, schedule appointments,
    etc. I imagine it also made teachers feel more like professionals to
    have support staff of their own, and freed up some of their time that
    had been spent on purely clerical responsibilities as well.

    I think your survey is very valuable.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Carolyn Foote