Building Bridges By Reconceptualizing Teacher Time
There are countless gaps that exist in education: between policy and practice, research and practice, teacher-preparation programs and schools, districts and schools, schools and the communities they serve, teachers and administrators, achievement gaps, technology access. You name it, there is an identifiable gap holding our education system back from fulfilling its fullest potential.
Yet in the space between the gap, there is hope. That hope lies in the bridges that can be built between gaps by reconceptualizing the role and time distribution of an educator's work.
We need to blur the lines between not only classrooms and their communities and worlds, but also educators and education. This will not only lead to greater alignment across and within agencies; it will also provide career-development pathways for professional growth and teacher retention.
If we want a given result, we have to structure time accordingly. Hybridizing teacher time can happen in multiple ways, including:
• Splitting the time of a teacher within school roles (family and community liaison, teaching coach or mentor, coordinator). I personally would LOVE to have one of these positions built into my school day.*
• Splitting a teacher's time between the school and an organization outside the school (for example, a teacher-preparation program, state or national policy, district or community organization).
• Providing selected educators with a research or professional-development sabbatical for part of the year
• Providing additional time for teachers to plan and collaborate built into the school day.
*On a cautionary note, we need to be mindful when creating hybrid roles that they not encompass two full-time careers, but are a sustainable combination of positions.
One may cite budgetary reasons for the traditional compartmentalized role of a teacher. But we cannot afford to continue to silo the profession. Many other countries that experience high rates of education success, like Japan, have fewer teaching hours relative to the number of teaching hours in the U.S. school day. Though there are countless other systemic factors at play, this certainly makes a difference, particularly in light of the MetLife survey finding that cites the desire of teachers to have expanded career pathways and differentiated roles.
Education itself depends on bringing teacher voice into realms outside the classroom, yet we need to structure time to do so. This shift demands risk, budgetary creativity, and reconceptualizing what has been siloed for too long. Yet, in order to build the bridges we know are so crucial to the success of our children and schools, we need to take the leap and close the gaps.
Linda Yaron is a National Board-certified English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. She is a former U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow, and she is active in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.