Teacher planning and preparation is crucial for effective teaching. Unfortunately, this is an area that is often targeted with cuts when responding to issues like increasing the number of periods in a school day or reducing the number of days students come to school.

There is a reason to believe the importance of planning is being overlooked.

Why we need teacher planning periods

In most school districts around the country, teachers are allotted too little time to accomplish so much before any cuts are considered. Education policymakers do not seem to appreciate the importance of before-class planning.

Generally, the evident lack of concern for teacher planning is probably as a result of misconceptions about what goes on during the planning period. Policymakers who were students two or three decades ago remember a classroom environment that no longer exists – one where students check each other’s math assignments while abiding by the honor system or one where students independently read while the literature teacher corrects essays.

The teacher’s changing roles

Today’s learning environment is more active, with an increased focus on teamwork and problem-solving. Consequently, the teacher’s role has significantly transformed from presenting the knowledge to facilitating learning. Additionally, teachers are no longer able to correct assignments while students study on their own.

Still, in some school districts, teachers can no longer let students assess each other’s assignments due to parent’s complaints. And since most students are unwilling to work without getting credit, the number of assignments per student has increased tremendously. Thus, assignments that were once assessed during class time have now proliferated into piles which the teacher must work on after class – probably during the planning period.

What a sample planning period shows

This real-time example is proof that a significant percentage of a teacher’s planning time is devoted to conferencing and paperwork. During a sample week of planning activities, it becomes practically impossible to correct even one class set of assignments during the allotted planning period.

Thus, a teacher who provides writing assignments to four or five streams of 30 learners and who utilizes his 60-minute planning period well will not be able to provide constructive feedback to learners – unless they carry a substantial amount of the work home.

The negative effects of reducing planning periods

By reducing the planning period, policymakers cause learners to be subjected to more machine-graded tests and fewer writing assignments. While several teaching strategies like cooperative learning and peer evaluation with rubrics that reduce paper load have been developed, learners are still entitled to the teacher’s feedback. For this reason, reduced planning periods make attaining higher standards barely likely. This deprives learners of the quality education that they deserve.

The planning period is important for every teacher. This is the only time of day when they are without students and have time to prepare their lessons. It is also the time they use to double check technology, use the copier, review lessons, prepare labs, and correct assignment. Teachers need planning periods.