To Collaborate and Lead, Teachers Need District Help
I have worked in a few different districts, both public and charter, and in my professional experience, time is something that teachers have struggled to ask for and districts have struggled to see its importance.
The average teacher spends 45 hours a week in a school building. In that time he or she is monitoring the halls, calling parents, planning a field trip, grading a five-paragraph essay, collecting the homework, lesson planning, observing recess, and checking in with a student who is struggling—not to mention teaching.
In a school where curriculum is not created by the district there are teachers, young and old, who spend long hours in or outside of the school facility developing their own plans from scratch. I can remember having to stay up late perfecting my lesson plans, changing my plans to meet certain standards, not having any guidance on what I should be teaching or for how long. Then, getting up at 5:30 in the morning, reviewing my "lines" as I drove 40 minutes to work. Later on I would assess whether the students grasped the material with either a summative or formative assessment and then do it all over again the next day.
I think that if teachers meet across content to develop lesson plans, cultivate the pacing of curriculum, and discuss common misunderstandings within student learning, this would cut down on the time spent alone. Collaboration is key. I have finally reached a point in my career where these things are actually happening in my district and building. I am given a common prep period with other teachers in my content, our district has scheduled meetings at different points in the year where every teacher across the district meets by content area, and lastly I have curriculum that has been created and aligned with Common Core State Standards. I feel supported in my craft and I feel appreciated. Sure, time flies by, but I am now able to put more focus on certain areas of my craft that never really got attention in the past.
I believe that districts can provide a more sustainable teaching schedule that would allow teachers to be effective classroom teachers and take on a leadership role within the school. Whether that role is in curriculum development or as the head of a department, it is possible to be effective at both, but teachers need the time. I am currently in a leadership role and I have not left the classroom. I do all of the daily tasks of a classroom teacher and I lead a department. Teachers in leadership positions also need to feel supported; time will only help them become more effective school leaders.
Read more of this edition of Teaching Ahead: Restructuring Teachers' Time.
Brittany Austin grew up in Trenton, N.J., and attended high school in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. She earned a B.A in History and an M.A.T in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently in her sixth year of teaching 6th grade history. Follow her on Twitter @msaustinspowers.