Friday, September 2, 2011

Lunch and Bus Duty

As part of the budget cuts in education, teachers at my school have had to take on "duties."  The duties include such things as lunch duty and bus duty.  In years past or at least in the past 20 years, the county has been able to purchase these services through the help of paraprofessionals. Don't get me wrong.  I have been a teacher for a long time and back in the day, it was not unusual for teachers to have duties.  We usually took a week here or there and had morning breakfast duty or a week of bus duty.  In all of my 30 plus years, however, I don't ever remember being required to do lunchroom duty.  However, for ten years at Alimacani Elementary School I skipped my duty free lunch and ate with my class of preschool children with special needs.  It was just easier.  I was often toilet training children and it was easier to be there than to go back to the lunchroom and find a child had had an accident, and I liked talking with the children during this freer time of the day.  Not only could I work on their language skills in this more natural environment, but I just enjoyed talking to the kids during lunch!  During that same time, I did morning bus duty for these same kids.  It was just easier to meet their buses and watch the children myself before school formally started than to ask a para to watch them when they were not familiar with the behavior programs that we had in place.  The same was true in the afternoon.  I put each child in the parent's car and then escorted the rest of the children to their bus in the afternoon.  

Ever since I have been at Chets Creek, I have not been required to do bus or lunch duty except for the first few weeks to help out with kindergartners.  However,I gave up my lunchtime for a year because I had a student that just couldn't get through the lunch period without severe behavioral issues.  The point is, I have done lunch and bus duty in the past, but always because I felt my expertise was needed for those specific times of the day to meet the needs of students.

Now, however, teachers are doing lunch and bus duty, simply because there is no one else to do it.  To make sure that all the duty is "fair" we often have more teachers than are really need in the Dining Room at one time and more than are needed at the bus, but we have to be "fair."  I was thinking today about the amount of money that taxpayers are paying me to stand at the bus for 45 minutes at the end of the day.  I'm embarrassed to say what it is costing them!   I don't really offer much.  Safety is not the issue here. There are five adults out there and a patrol for every bus - a job that could probably be handled by two adults easily. It's not hard work.  I enjoy getting hugs from former students and asking how the day has been.  Today there was actually a nice breeze and I kept thinking about how I was using my six years of college and thirty plus years of experience in reading as I waved good-by to kids. 
The same could be said for the lunchroom.  I'm sure administrators won't fight for a change because I'm sure there are probably less issues with so many teachers overseeing, but what is lost when teachers are spending their time handing out napkins and forks instead of sharing lunch with their colleagues?  Although our school has a small faculty Dining Room, few teachers actually eat there.  Instead, before this year, they usually ate with a partner and 90% of what I saw is that they were planning and collaboratively talking about issues and kids.  There's not really a  lot of personal conversation, although they certainly can do that, but instead, at our school it was mostly about the work.  Because co-teachers are split this year, one in the lunchroom while the other eats and then one at recess while the other eats, they miss this valuable time of comparing notes and planning together.  This really takes its toll in the primary school where teachers really co-teach the entire day.  It's not like one teacher teaches the entire 36 while the other plans for half the day and then viceversa.  In the primary school, where I can speak with authority, most teachers are both on their feet teaching the entire day together.  That takes extra planning, but this year, instead of being together running through ways to fine tune instruction, they are opening pop top fruit and putting straws in juice bags. I wonder how businesses would feel about this really poor use of time... It may be "fair," but is it efficient?  Funny that we would have teachers spend their day in this way in a time when we say we believe in rigor...  Food for thought...

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