(In this post, I am simply thinking out loud. This idea has been running in my mind for quite some time now, and I’ve had many great discussions about it with superintendents, principals, teachers and parents. I would love to know what you think !)
One of the biggest challenges that I faced as a principal was to constantly try to protect the time teachers and students had in the classroom, or “teaching time”. Throughout the years, lost time for classroom instruction has always been a major concern for teachers and a source of much stress. Some of the reasons for this loss of teaching time were: professional development during regular school days, Professional Development Days (students are not at school), PLC meetings – all necessary pedagogical activities, but unfortunately take teachers away from their students.
I’ve often asked myself the following questions: how can we overcome this obstacle ? Can we think outside the box and find a solution that would be a win-win situation for both school staff and students ? How can we achieve this within our present school structure that basically dates back to 1892 when it was first conceived by the Committee of Ten ?
Small change…BIG CHANGE !
Lets do a short pedagogical inventory of the reasons why a teacher would not be in class with his or her students:
- Professional Development Days
- Pedagogical team meetings (PLC, Leaders, Collaborative Inquiry Meeting, etc.)
- Committee meetings (academically struggling students, behavior, etc.)
- Professional development (during regular school days)
Looking at these types of activities, one question kept ringing in my mind: would it be possible to do the majority if not all of these activities without losing any time with students in the classroom ?
During my many discussions about this, a common idea would almost always prevail: what if we had one hour at the end of every day to collaborate as a team after the students had left school ?
What would that look like ?
Lets say we work in an elementary school in which the school day begins at 8:45 am and ends at 3:10 pm. On most days, the «departure» routine (bus, parents picking up) is finished by 3:30 pm, which would give us from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, each and every day, to do, for example:
- Professional development
- Teacher-lead professional learning
- Pedagogical team meetings (to plan, evaluate, share, collaborate)
- Committee meetings (academic, intervention, Christmas concert committee)
By carefully planing out these pedagogical activities from September to June, the principal and teachers could collaborate during this time to achieve the goals set out in their school improvement plan, as well as everyone’s professional improvement plan. One hour each and every day without having to find substitutes, without the teachers losing precious prep time, but most of all without losing a minute of instruction with students in the classroom.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that some of these activities already go on after students have gone home at the end of the day. However, this usually is not a “dedicated time ” each and every day, officially. Its usually left to the discretion of the individual, therefor we can’t really plan for the long-term and establish objectives.
Obviously, each person would not have a scheduled activity each day ! During the days that they don’t, each person would decide which pedagogical activity they would want to do during that hour. It could be:
- revising assignments
- planing lessons
- working on report cards
- coaching a team
- participating in school clubs
- professional learning/networking
What would the advantages and disadvantages for teachers, principals and students be if a school adopted this kind of structure ? What would it look like in a secondary school ? Could this type of structure bring about a positive change for students and staff in our schools ?