As I have written about previously, self reflection is a professional practice I regularly employ. I have been on Winter Holidays for about a week now and I have stepped back from the day-to-day demands of the classroom. My head is a bit calmer, my body is rested, and I feel relaxed- a perfect combination for thinking about the past few months at school.
I do not want to spend a great deal of time on this post because I am on holidays, I want to enjoy them and I am sure you want to enjoy yours! However, I want to share something about my final week of school. It is a particular phrase (in response to a particular situation) that keeps playing in my head- 'I don't have time to spend 20 minutes of my prep filling in the TA' in response to having a last minute substitute TA in their room. HMMMM....let's unpack this ever common sentiment.
'I don't have time'- how often do you hear this phrase? how often do you say it? I am guilty of saying it more than a few times. However, the truth is there is never enough time in any profession or any aspect of life. Think about how many times you want to hit the gym, but there just is not enough time to squeeze in a sweat session before you meet up with your friends or hit up your appointment. I don't have time is a scapegoat phrase for not prioritizing effectively.
Prioritizing effectively is not necessarily the order that you want to complete tasks. Rather, it is the order that is necessary for success. Prioritizing based on wants is not a bad thing, we can argue that certain items are necessary for certain reasons and therefore should be high on our priority list. That is fine. However, when time is of concern it is important to remember what really counts. Is it more important to hit up the photocopier or fill in a substitute TA? Do your students need to have that copy of the handout for success or does one student need to have his plan followed so that he can have a good day (and not end up melting down)? It is that age-old ethics problem- is it about the greater good of the group of an individual?
No one can answer that for you. BUT I implore you to think about your priorities. How will your list in your order affect your students? Is it easier for you or is it better for your students? You will never have enough time to do everything, especially to do everything well.
'to spend 20 minutes of my prep filling in the TA'- I cannot say that this phrase is as common as the above 'I don't have time'. Your prep time is not your free time. Your prep time is to prepare for your lessons, your students, and your professional practice. TAs are there to support students within the school. If a student who requires TA support is in your classroom then it is your responsibility to meet with the TA. Unfortunately, few organizations have additional time to meet and this time needs to be found within the run of your day. Many times with subs meeting before or after school is not going to happen, so using you prep time is essential. All our students are counting on us being organized, prepared, and ready to support their learning. Using the photocopier is important, but is it essential to the success of the school day? I am not sure it is. Whereas, spending 20 minutes to go over a student with a substitute TA (or any unfamiliar teacher) is probably essential to that student's success and well-being.
'I don't have time to spend 20 minutes of my prep filling in the TA'- You do have 20 minutes to prepare for student success. It might not be what you want to be doing during your prep time that day (or ever). Your professional practice is not guided by your wants, it is guided by what ALL your students need in order to be successful at school. If you really are stuck and do not have time to support the TA, call on your colleagues and administrators to help you out. It takes a village- or a school community.
Inclusive education relies on collaboration. Please consider effective prioritizing that is flexible to meet the needs of your students. Considering the whole class is important, but sometimes focusing in on one student will have the largest impact. Remember the 7-10 split when your are prepping, prioritizing, and teaching.