Is ‘Duty’ a 4 letter word?

Truthfully, I can’t say I have personally ever spoken to a fellow teacher who enjoyed duty. Granted, I teach at a Junior High where watching them chew with their mouths open is a lot less charming than to see little ones swinging and playing hopscotch.  However, one thing it seems that most can agree on: Almost all schools require and need some form of duty either before or after school, or in some cases, both.  Several years ago, we had parents who dropped students off at 6:45 am. Unsupervised, they tore out ceiling tiles, stole items from display cases and broke things in the halls…and these were kids who were typically considered good. The main problem? There was no one there to watch them.

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71.64% of respondents to my poll about duty noted that they have duty both before and after school. 11.94% have it only after school, 4.48% have it only before school and somewhere, over the rainbow in a land of unicorns and wonderment, 11.94% noted that their school requires no duty. (Where is the place, and are they hiring?)

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My school requires duty twice per week, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I have had what I affectionately call ‘Pop Tart Patrol’ for going on 5 years now. We’ve joked that teachers should have a sash and earn patches for duty stations much like the Boy or Girl Scouts. If so, I’d have 4 Pop Tarts and 5 Parent Pick-Up Cars on mine.

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Some of the comments, I wanted to share:

Even though I do morning (albeit, once a week) duty, and afternoon
walker duty… I’m fortunate to have been taken off of lunch duty. Feeling like
I should light a candle for my coworkers…    Henry

I think duty at my school is pretty fair.  Generally, we all have an
assigned duty–some better than others.  Car duty is the worst.       Suzanne

I teach in a high school.  We have duty assignments for before and
after school.  Additionally, the students have an hour lunch, but the teachers
have 30 minutes.  Guess what we get to do for the other thirty minutes?  Duty.
Duty may include the traditional standing in the cafeteria watching the kids
eat, tutoring, pacing the halls to make sure that the kids are behaving (the
kids can eat just about anywhere they want), supervising kids during open gym,
or in “interest groups.”  Most of the students ignore the activities we offer
and spend the lunch hour eating, gossiping, and walking around.          Kim

Before, during, AND after school.  Before and after my contract time
with no extra compensation.  Also, lunch duty while I am eating lunch.     Kristin

Duties are part of the school day both for classified and certified
staff. At my old site, certified regular ed classroom teachers had 15 min. of
duty daily. At the current school (same district) we have 15 min. daily 3 days a
week for half the year and 2 days the other half. We are also expected to be
with our students every day after school until they are picked up, usually
another 10-15 minutes.                       Heidi

Fortunately, my school is big and with the number of teachers and staff
involved, we only have a bus duty or car duty for parent drop off and pick up
three or four weeks each year. Classroom teachers have to do their own recess
time, but the cafeteria has paid aides, so that helps.                Charmaine

We have before school duty, lunch duty, recess duty and after school
duty. I’m ‘dutied’ out.                     Jennifer

I am the school secretary at an alternative school. All of our teachers
have duty before and after school to supervise buses. We pay two to supervise
lunch, and they spread it among those who are interested in selling 15 minutes
of their lunch time. Our teachers have one hour before and 45 minutes after
school for their prep period. It kind of comes with the territory. I don’t know
what the contract says, other than they are allowed a 30 minute duty-free lunch.
On the other hand, I am a pastor in my other life. I don’t get paid for “extra
duty,” for hospital visits, pre-marriage counseling or funeral counseling for
members (non-members are a different story). I don’t get paid for all the extra
meetings I attend, preparation for those meetings, or preparing my sermons; nor
do I get paid for all the resources I buy to or access to get those things
accomplished.As a school secretary, I don’t get paid for the cell phone I often use to
contact my principal when she is at meetings and we have a crisis, for attending
planning meetings during the summer that affect my life as the school secretary,
for the bulletin boards I do, or the art projects I design for our reward time,
or for all the research I do at night and on weekends to find ways to benefit
our kids. I don’t know if teachers “should” have to do duty or not, but if they — who
know the kids best — don’t do it, who are we going to pay to do it?                 Jan

Not all duty is created equal. Some is air-conditioned, while others bake in the hot Texas sun. Some call for you to see 10-15 students, while others have you watching an entire gym or cafeteria of children. If I made one suggestion about duty to administrators, it would be to rotate duties. Five long, long years of watching kids pick the crust off their bread, mix milk with their orange juice and slurp cereal is more than ample for me. I’d gladly trade this AC’ed job for one outdoors.

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You know that old adage that just when you think you have it bad, you look at someone else’s situation and realize you have it pretty good? This blog was one of those cases for me. I loathe duty. I hate getting there earlier than normal. I hate that afternoon duty crosses over into my gym time. I begrudge that fact that I have to give up time to plan, clean and grade to watch young adults who should be able to control themselves. Or at least I did.

Now that I have seen that, as they say, the grass isn’t always greener, it’s not as difficult for me to give 1 hour each week (30 minutes each duty). I have a free lunch period of 30 minutes and no recess duty. Granted, we don’t get paid extra, but as Jan pointed out above, quite a few jobs come with extras that aren’t compensated.

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The truth of the matter is, we are there to make sure the kids are safe. We want them to have food, shelter, enjoy a bully free environment, and have time to see us for tutoring, questions or just to talk. We don’t want them to be hit by a bus or a car, and if someone choked on a chicken nugget, we want to make sure they cough it up and breath.

So, no. Duty is not fun. Sometimes is not enjoyable. It is, however, necessary.

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