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The Value of Five Minutes for a Teacher


Jessica Keigan

I recently had the extreme privilege of hearing Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. Of the many great ideas she shared, one of her classroom strategies particularly stood out.

At the start of her school year, she asks students to describe the value of five minutes. Her intention is to help high school students see the value in every minute of their education, which led me to wonder how this activity might benefit other stakeholders in the system.

What would be the value of five extra minutes in an educator's schedule? If any of you teachers are like me, five unplanned minutes in a day are a gift. These five minutes might be spent learning about a new professional strategy, catching up on local and national policy or interacting with peers in virtual or real time venues. Unfortunately, these are more often stolen moments rather than intentional investments of time on the part of the system.

Typically, at least a fourth of a teacher's day is taken up with extra duties and administrative tasks. While these are often necessary for the success of her job, there has to be a more efficient way to cope with these kinds of tasks so that more time is secured for collaboration, professional reading, or other growth promoting activities.

Unfortunately, reformers who are looking at expanded time models are often met with skepticism when sharing their ideas with educators. Quite frankly, it is because we don't just need more time in the educational system, we need a paradigm shift in how time is used. We not only need more time—we need better time.

There are models that achieve this goal. The Generation Schools Model being implemented in Brooklyn and Denver expands the school day and calendar in creative ways to allow for deeper learning for students and more intentional professional time for staff.

Similarly, the teacherpreneur model of hybrid teacher leadership introduced in Teaching 2030 is now being utilized in districts across the country. In this redesign of teacher leadership, teacherpreneurs are released from half of their schedule to practice leadership in a variety of initiatives and arenas, thereby spreading professional learning and opportunity to their peers and their system.

So what is the value of five minutes in an educator's day? The simple answer is that any time dedicated to the education of the students in this country is invaluable. As such, we need to ensure that all time is spent in ways that foster growth for all stakeholders.

As a teacherpreneur, Jessica divides her time evenly between teaching English at Horizon High School in Denver and supporting results-oriented efforts to improve Colorado's schools.

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