Follow-Up: Valuing Teachers' Time
I completely agree with Jessica Keigan that the conversation around extended school day and year rarely considers the way time is currently spent in schools, especially by teachers. It is commonplace in American schools for teachers to spend time doing things such as booking field trips and busing, troubleshooting technology, buying their own supplies, and filling in in a wide variety of capacities outside the classroom. Having teachers spend a portion of their valuable time away from planning and instruction ultimately does a disservice to students. Just like doctors are not expected to book appointments and file records, teachers should not be burdened with tasks that distract from their central goal of educating children.
What Jessica's post identifies is that any extra time provided to teachers can have a significant impact on their ability to be high-quality educators. In the successful schools I've worked in, the school administration and support teams acknowledged this and worked to enable teachers to spend their time effectively. Schools should be structured with a mission and capacity to support teachers and delegate administrative tasks away from the instructional staff.
While some of this depends on the budget and staffing of individual schools, administrators must be both creative and hardworking to provide teachers with more time during the day. Utilizing interns, community volunteers, and student teachers are great examples of low-cost methods for providing added support within schools. Additionally, when administrators and support staff are working hard and acknowledge their role in supporting teachers, that extra effort both adds time to the day and makes teachers feel like valued members of the school community.
Brooke Peters, currently at Community Roots Charter School, has taught kindergarten and 1st grade in Los Angeles and New York City for 10 years. She is also co-founder of the Odyssey Initiative, a project aimed at discovering and documenting exemplary practices in U.S. schools.