One Sunflower

the “pie exercise”

on January 20, 2010

This blog entry borders on a bugaboo – sorry.  But since it is time for mid-term reflections – I’m reflecting.  I really like the administrator that gave me the “pie exercise” but I don’t like the way she went about this exchange:

Two weeks ago, an administrator asked a packed room of teachers to draw a pie and label the slices with all the different kinds of work we do.  Then she asked us to assign hours to those slices.

I’m not sure what the intent of her request was – I’m curious, and a tiny bit irritated – because she wasn’t transparent about why she wanted us to do this exercise. (We had to turn it in to her, by the way.) I’ve come up with a variety of reasons for this exercise ranging from the benign to the not-so:

  • she isn’t a teacher, she’s curious about our work
  • she’s the administrator who oversees data entry so she’s curious about how much time we dedicate to it
  • she has an opinion about the time we spend on data entry and wants confirmation
  • she wants to compare responses from different teachers/sites
  • all of the above
  • none of the above

I dutifully turned my pie in, deciding not to get too stressed about the process. I didn’t copy down my submission but I think my pie ended up with 9 slices:

  1. teaching
  2. environment prep and clean up
  3. curriculum planning
  4. assessments and data collection
  5. collaboration meetings with service partners
  6. student intervention meetings/staffings,
  7. family resources research and coordination
  8. professional development with school district and HeadStart partners
  9. data entry 

Of course there are some hours that are absolute from week to week, but I flex everything depending on the time of year, making decisions about my responsibilities based on priority. I’m not the kind of teacher who works a clean 7 hours/day and walks out the door when the clock strikes 3:30.  I do try to make the time between 8 and 3:30 focused on the work I’ve named in my pie.  Time around the edges is often spent on opportunities for professional development with my colleagues, putting together curriculum components, determining next steps for my most at-risk students.

A subsequent email from the administrator asked us to clarify “average time” spent on such-and-such.  That email made me feel there was an agenda in the exercise and I felt defensive.   A few of my peers felt the same way. 

So I’m sending this note to administrators out there:  Please be transparent when asking me to report about my work.  I take my work and my time very seriously.  I am sensitive to the issue of using my time wisely to do meaningful work.  If you have an opinion or question about how I spend my time on my work, I’d love to have a discussion about it.

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