With All This Time Spent Managing, Who Has Time to Teach?
Teaching is an all-day, all-encompassing job.
The responsibilities pile up quickly: planning engaging lessons, differentiating activities for individual students, boosting test scores, providing timely feedback, caring for students' emotional health, documenting the day's activities, and developing as a teacher. With all of that stacked on teachers' plates, it's natural to wonder: How can that load be lightened?
In Kentucky, a group of educators recently came together to analyze what happens in the typical teacher day—and how that time can be used most effectively. Through feedback gathered in the Center for Teaching Quality Collaboratory, email, Twitter chats, and personal discussions, this group of 15 teachers and 1 administrator came up with three recommendations that could go a long way in resolving the task-master mindset that plagues many teachers' effectiveness (and, by default, student achievement). These recommendations for principals and administrators are to:
- Redesign school schedules to prioritize learning for students and teachers;
- Promote teacher-driven professional learning communities; and
- Rethink classroom structures and needs.
A teacher's day can differ from district to district, state to state, classroom to classroom. The one constant, however, is a full slate of monitoring and administrative duties. Adjustments to ease those burdens, like utilizing co-teaching models, creating apprentice positions that allow younger teachers to gain experience while removing some burdens from veteran teachers, and streamlining paperwork processes, free up more time for productive collaboration and effective interventions with students.
Professional learning communities, as originally conceived, were designed to allow teachers to work together and use collective knowledge to improve classroom practice. However, administrative duties have seeped into this valuable time. This recommendation asks that this time be given back to teachers to plan and reflect as a team, with a focus on learning (rather than a to-do list). With teachers in control of the reins, natural leadership will grow from within these communities, and teacher-generated ideas will have more opportunities for implementation.
The basic structure of schools rely on teacher supervision and monitoring—leaving little time to plan the learning opportunities necessary for high levels of engagement. By incorporating more co-teaching opportunities with longer periods for planning and reflection, schools could focus more energy on growth and individualized learning for teacher and student.
Imagine a classroom with two teachers roaming simultaneously to provide feedback for students and co-reflecting throughout the class to improve their practice on the fly. Additionally, these two teachers could plan in tandem to create rigorous and valuable assessments as well as project-based learning opportunities for the students. The co-teaching model has so much potential for helping teachers and students by enhancing the learning environment.
The idea behind these recommendations is evident with a brief glance—learning is paramount for both students AND teachers. Schools should be learning factories, not paperwork warehouses. It's important for administrators and policymakers to note that this isn't about making the job easier for teachers—it's about empowering them to do more to help students grow.
Read more of this edition of Teaching Ahead: Restructuring Teachers' Time.
Brison Harvey is teaching his third year at Lafayette High School in Kentucky, covering U.S. History and Government. He has been an active participant in the Common Assignment Study, creating, developing and implementing two U.S. History units with assessments. Harvey is also a Virtual Community Organizer and blogger for CTQ.