As a primary school Assistant Principal with a class of my own, disruptions and changes continually interrupt my teaching week. Even if you are not a member of the executive, school events, extra-curricular activities and special days can replace your teaching day or half your week!
No wonder we get behind and many teachers I have spoken to agree – “I plan for the term but only get half of it done!”
Over the years I have continually tried to find ways to program efficiently and ‘fit’ everything around the other events of school life. With an already over crowded curriculum, teachers now have to compete with carnivals, assemblies, rehearsals, planning days and out of the classroom professional learning.
A strategy that helps me work out exactly how many days I have to teach, and where my week is interrupted is to create a “Term Planner” before each term starts and BEFORE I begin my programming for the next term.
I create a calendar of the term laid out in weeks and days. Using colour shading, I block out any days where the whole day is allocated to other school activities.
As an Assistant Principal, I am always off class on Tuesdays for executive duties. So Tuesdays are blocked out in Pink. As you can see in Week 3, I will be away at a choir performance all day Monday and on Thursday we have our Athletics Carnival. Those and similar days are blocked out in blue. So I will only be teaching my class 2 days that week!
Once I blocked out all days, I also insert any other activities (PSSA, Assemblies etc) that will rule out a large chunk of a day or session. After this is done, I can see just exactly how much teaching time is left, and how much to put in my program. I colour code my subjects and activities too, and I may even put in the lesson topics.
This document is placed in my diary, my program and attached to my desk in my classroom. This is also helpful for any casual teachers who may come in to my room for a day or session.
If I know in advance how much time I will have left to teach I can alter my week or my fortnight accordingly. For example, my ideal arrangement would be to have literacy groups 4 times a week, as I have 4 groups to rotate through 4 different activities. But as you can see in this term, most weeks have a disruption. Therefore, I plan the literacy group rotation to go for 2 weeks, so everyone completes the four activities. It is so frustrating as a teacher to have a group continually miss out on one of the crucial activities!
It’s also helpful to block out an afternoon every few weeks as ‘catch up’ so you can finish of anything that takes longer than anticipated.
You can see a whole term’s planner here.
Also, here is a blank term planner to fill in for your own class.