Schedule Mayhem

As teachers, we deal with so many obstacles in our daily grind that it would be impossible to list them all.  But of all of the obstacles I encounter, the most annoying would be constant or unpredictable schedule changes.

As high school teachers, we live and die by the daily regiment of set bell schedules.  Our lessons are choreographed like a ballet to fit within the unforgiving constrains of bell schedules that ultimately determine our teaching timeline and how much our students will learn. So nothing is more frustrating than when schedules change and reduce or eliminate instruction. While the reasons that cause these changes are usually out of our hands and are sometimes for legitimate reasons, the effect is the same – screwed up lesson plans and less quality time with the students.  It’s not always about the total amount of minutes we spend on activities but the continuity of our lessons.  As a veteran teacher, I am accustomed to having my plans overridden by last minute changes but it still makes me frustrated. Many times I am forced to shorten or alter activities just to conduct class. To illustrate how challenging this can be, I prepared a log of what the last week in January was like for me.

Wednesday AM:
I’m preparing for my 2nd period 11th grade class to do their “Field Site Visits” as part of the “Uncovering Problems of the Turn at the Century” lesson from History Alive!Pursuing American Ideals.  Uh oh! An announcement was just made saying that 11th grade assembly is running late and we are switching bell schedules to shorter periods. The shorter period gives significantly less time for the activity so I have to think fast to shorten the activity and perhaps cover the gaps the next day.

Wednesday PM: It snows really bad that night and school is cancelled for Thursday and Friday. Continuing the lesson must now wait 4 calendar days . . . not exactly ideal for any chance of lesson continuity.

Monday and Tuesday:
Monday comes and somehow I have to pick-up where we stopped. We are once again on a shortened bell schedule for what is called “predicative” testing for Monday and Tuesday.  These tests are administered to predict how well the students will do on the state standardized test. Yes, that’s right. . . .classes are interrupted so students can take a test to see how well they will do on a test.  Besides the shortened periods, I will also have the deal with burned-out students who will have to follow their roster after completing the tests in an extended homeroom period. Needless to say, we don’t cover as much as I planned as I battle the test fatigue fallout from the fake standardized testing.

The sun rises on a new day and it’s now Wednesday and a full week from when I started this activity. I still haven’t completed this lesson but today will be the day! Wrong. . . it’s snowing again and it’s really bad. Only 50% of the students have made it in to school. We go to an assembly schedule to delay 1st period to allow for students arriving late which, as you can guess, will reduce instruction time once again. With a prediction of 12 inches of snow before 4pm, the school district makes the decision to dismiss all schools at noontime. Arghhh!

Thursday and Friday:
No school due to the snow.

While I will freely admit that I am probably worse than the students when in comes to wishing for school to be closed because of snow, this particular winter has been testing my nerves. The most common tactic I take to shortening a TCI activity will be to convert it to some type of jigsaw or other cooperative learning strategy.

I am curious to see how other TCI teachers adapt lessons on the fly when schedules change like this. Share your tactics!


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