Getting time on our side

I’ve been thinking a lot about career continuums and school redesign lately, participating in an National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) webinar (which will be available next week) and working towards the release of an NNSTOY whitepaper (which will be released October 4th…I can’t wait!). I’ve been putting my brain in high gear, rethinking some big ideas in our profession and having dialogue with teachers across the country on the topic. But there is one catalyst in my life that has caused me to think long and hard on this…

I am just wrapping up my second teaching week in my new job as a teacher educator at Mount Holyoke College. I emphasize my second teaching week. Because before that, I had several weeks (paid) to plan, read, think, reflect. Time to grow my practice, collaborate with my colleagues, and  create ideal learning situations for my college students.

Now here is my question: How could this happen in our public education K-12 system?

Here’s another example to illustrate my thinking. It’s Friday, and I’m sitting in my office. I taught on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but today? I am planning next week’s explorations. I am watching videos from the Teaching Channel, thinking about which segments we can watch in class, learning as a group. I am carefully responding to exit tickets, reflecting on my students’ suggestions for the way our class flows. I am meeting with several students to talk through some questions they had from class, diving deeper into their understanding. I am meeting with a colleague, collaborating on our field journal assignments and how they can be more powerful and effective for our preservice teachers. I am reading current research about reflective practice and applying it to my own craft as an educator. I am doing the things that I want to do when I am in the K-12 classroom, but I just may not have time for. And it’s making me think.

In many countries with top-performing students, teachers don’t spend as much teaching time in front of students. They have time built into their school day, not just lopped on top. In Finland, for example, teachers spend on average 600 hours a year in front of students. In the United States? Over 1,000 hours. And I would make the argument that the more time I have to grow as a professional OUTSIDE my classroom, the better my craft of teaching is INSIDE my classroom. Which makes me a more effective teacher for my students. But I need the time to do it.

So a thought to let simmer…how can we shift our thinking about time in our public schools? Let’s get time on our side so we can meaningfully collaborate and grow as more effective educators.

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