22 February 2008

Rubber and Road

One of the most precious commodities teachers talk about is time. We want and need time to plan lessons...time to mark student work and provide feedback...time to contact parents and deal with administrative tasks...time to collaborate with peers. The reality is that teaching is usually a private and solitary profession: it's just you and the kids. And while we understand how to do our planning, marking, phone calling, and paperwork on our own---not very many teachers have a protocol in mind for working together.

This district, like several others in the state, has one-day per week where students are released early in order to give teachers some common planning time. There is always a pull between administration and teachers about this time. Teachers would like to self-direct and admin would like some accountability. I'm quite sure I'm in the minority about this, but I don't think admin's request is unwarranted. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars wrapped up in salary and benefits for non-student time. If teachers truly think they need this time for something, it's not too much to ask that it be tied to professional goals.

We support teacher collaboration in terms of time---but not in terms of professional development. In other words, we don't provide training in the structures surrounding collaboration. How do we have productive discussion around student work? Standards-based lesson planning? Interventions for struggling students? Best practices in literacy and/or content instruction? There is an assumption that teachers naturally know what to do when they meet to make these discussions happen. In my years here, however, I've rarely seen rubber meet road during these common planning time sessions. We need to take the time to train and support teachers in the culture we expect them to adopt before we expect them to be able to have meaningful collaborative conversations.

7 comments:

Clix said...

What do you mean by "self-direct" and "accountability"? It doesn't seem like they should be mutually exclusive.

The Science Goddess said...

It depends on who one is accountable to, doesn't it?

What can (and in some cases, does) happen is that teachers get to choose what they want to do with their 90 minutes of paid time---but they don't do things related to the classroom (e.g. they chat with friends on the phone, play games on-line, etc.). Admin would like teachers to focus on the classroom during this time (make teachers accountable).

If all teachers were using the common planning time as intended, this would be a non-issue.

Clix said...

Do teachers normally get to leave as soon as the students do?

The Science Goddess said...

Theoretically, no. There is something here called "WAC time." The WAC is the Washington Administrative Code---basically the laws for the state. The WAC outlines a particular amount of time that teachers are to be available to students before and after the school day, but it is not heavily monitored. For example, most principals are not going to discipline a teacher who arrives when the bell rings in the morning when the teacher stays at work until 5 or 6 p.m. each day---well after WAC time.

Poor_Statue said...

Here, here.

I actually wrote a restructuring proposal in which I included the fact that teachers need to be trained in how to use common planning time.

Mr. McNamar said...

SG--an excellent post. I might have to tackle the idea myself. And I miss being a part of the Washington Blogroll. By the way, I like the style of the WASL better than that of the CAPT; although the CAPT seems to focus more on critical thinking and connections, the format is very difficult to draw useful data from.

The Science Goddess said...

I really think that good teachers want to make the best use of the time---they want to collaborate in ways that positively impact kids (the next day). We just need to give them a few tools before we set them loose.