502. Interruptions

For many teachers who care a lot about their work, lesson plans are pretty important. Such teachers really hope to be able to carry out their plans. They may also have alternative plans, just in case one idea doesn’t seem to be working. Some think about their plans when they could be sleeping, when they could be listening to someone at home who deserves attention, or while they’re driving to work. One way or another, they figure out how they and the children they teach are going to spend time.
Ideally, teachers then do what they have planned to do, and it works; children get motivated, inspired, enlightened – taught. Ideally, the act of teaching and the subsequent and consequent learning is treated, by everyone involved, as the most important thing that happens in school – as the reason there is school. And ideally, because plans and their enactment are valued, teachers go home eager to plan more. This ideal does happen.
But not always. The way schools function, there are often unscheduled interruptions. A teacher who is all set to do a great lesson may arrive at school, find a note in his/her mailbox, and learn that the dog officer is going to come to teach the children about pet safety, or there is going to be a bus drill. The great lesson the teacher has planned will just have to wait.
People often have things they want many children to hear or see, and school is fairly unique as a place where many children are reliably there, and are grouped approximately according to age. Administrators are often approached by people who want to use such a convenient facility to influence children in whatever way they have in mind. So there are frequent decisions to be made – priorities to weigh.
It’s not only schools that have to deal with such problems; legislators and many other people have to deal with people who come to them with priorities and request or demand time. So teachers aren’t the only ones who have to be ready to put aside their best laid plans and let other priorities preempt them.
And there are teachers who sometimes refuse to give in. They consider their own plans worthwhile – almost sacred – and won’t allow anyone to come in and take over without plenty of advanced notice. Such teachers are making a statement: “What I do is important enough to require other people to make adjustments.”
But there are also teachers who don’t want to fight city hall. If a representative of the So-and-So Club has gotten permission to talk to children about the importance of so-and-so, such teachers look up to Heaven for patience, bite their tongues, and let the representative do her/his thing. There are even teachers who consider so-and-so an important concern, or welcome the break.
But wouldn’t it be nice if people gave more thought to the relative importance of the time teachers spend with children?

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