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13. Duty-free Planning and Lunchtime

Provide Duty-free Planning and Lunchtime for All Educators and Remove Noninstructional Responsibilities

The most important element missing from Georgia’s Education Reform movement is respect for the teaching profession. GAE supports legislation providing duty-free planning and lunch time each day for all educators and the removal of noninstructional assignments during the teacher’s work day …Let Teachers Teach!

During the 2000 legislative session, Georgia’s legislators reduced the planning time for middle school teachers from 85 to 55 minutes. Middle school teachers are not included in the duty-free lunch provision extended to teachers in K-5 and 9-12. Legislators must realize that there is a direct relationship between productive planning time and instructional improvement.

It is amazing that legislators are so reluctant to understand the importance of planning periods. Every successful business and partnership is based upon well thought out plans developed by teams of professionals for success and expansion. Business leaders encourage employees to participate in workshops designed for effective time management and productive planning during their workday.

Teachers are professional educators. They deserve respect for their chosen professional career. Instead, during the 2000 legislative session they were demoralized, ridiculed, blamed for student achievement failures, and harassed by legislators. The direct result of this negative rhetoric is a growing crisis in the shortage of well-trained, certificated professional teachers. Why should any prospective educator or other professional enter the teaching profession in Georgia?

PLANNING TIME = IMPROVED STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AND LEARNING

Both the GAE Task Force on Middle School programs and the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals have recommended that funding for the common 85-minute team planning requirement for middle school remain. Middle school teachers utilize this planning time for various activities including: academic planning, student behavior conferences, clerical duties and required paper work, gifted recommendations, interdisciplinary curriculum planning, staff development, parent/guardian conferences, scheduling, special education placement and planning, student needs, student conferences, test analysis and action plan development, utilization of technology, student support team meetings, and other assignments. They will soon be required to enter data for the student information system.

Planning time, however, should not be limited to middle school teachers. Every professional K-12 educator needs adequate time to plan for lessons and other activities outlined above. Team planning is vital in order for teachers in different subject areas to coordinate learning activities and student achievement improvements. Many teachers are assigned different subject areas and must prepare multiple lesson plans for student instruction. Without adequate planning time, these lessons must be planned after hours and without the benefit of team cooperation.

DUTY-FREE LUNCH MUST BE PROVIDED

Teachers and paraprofessionals arrive at school early and work well beyond an eight hour day (The normal average is 53.7 hours per week). Once at school they are assigned to work with students and are not free during the instructional day. It is embarrassing for professional educators to have to ask permission from the principal to go to the restroom, answer a telephone, or take a break. Every worker in America should be provided some free time to take care of personal needs.

During the 1992 legislative session, a GAE supported bill requiring that a 30-minute daily duty-free lunch be provided for all K-5 teachers was adopted. School systems have had eight years to implement this benefit, and yet today many of Georgia’s teachers do not have the lunch period as intended by legislative action. With so much emphasis on accountability, why are administrators and school systems not held accountable for failing to implement this law?

Failure to provide the duty-free lunchtime to teachers is only a small portion of the problem. Teachers are also assigned bus duty, cafeteria duty, hall duty, restroom monitoring duty, and attendance at pep rallies and athletic events, in addition to a variety of paper work responsibilities and meetings with parents/guardians. GAE supports legislation to professionalize teaching and to "let teachers teach." Each noninstructional duty takes valuable time away from the opportunity for teachers to instruct students, provide special instructional assistance, and develop ways to improve student achievement.

School boards need to fund additional paraprofessional positions for necessary nonteaching support for our teachers. It is a waste of tax payer dollars and professional time for teachers to be assigned noninstructional duties. It is far past time for legislators to provide the respect for the teaching profession that our professional educators deserve. Teachers do embrace the accountability movement and desire to improve student achievement. By providing adequate planning, lunch, and noninstructional duty time for teachers, a benefit necessary to attract students and other professionals into a teaching career will be met.

GAE strongly urges members of the Georgia General Assembly to voice discomfort and concern over the negative rhetoric associated with last year’s education reform bill and treat all of Georgia’s educators (teachers, education support personnel, and administrators) with the respect that they deserve. Until this respect is demonstrated from our elected public officials, citizens will not hold the teaching profession in high esteem. With the ever present shortage of qualified professional educators, it is time to think outside of the box and determine ways to improve benefits and working conditions of educators as well as the salary.

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