Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Time for Teacher Work to Work (Part 2)

Today, we continue to explore solutions to the problem that teachers don't have time to do the work needed to be effective. Read Part 1 to catch up. Today, we will examine 2 of at least 7 possible solutions ...

1) Efficient, applied professional development: We need to start by maximizing the time we already have. Sadly, even when time is so short, much of our scheduled professional development time is wasted or minimally effective. In a 2002 study quoted by Heather C. Hill's March 2009 Phi Delta Kappan article, less than a quarter of teachers reported that the professional development they had attended changed their teaching. This finding is echoed by Linda Darling-Hammond and other researchers in their comprehensive report for the National Staff Development Council, Professional Learning in the Learning Profession, which goes on to point out that teacher's dissatisfaction stems at least partially from the "one-shot nature of much PD." (Thanks to Claus von Zastrow for pointing me to NSDC as a great resource.)

As I've written about in past posts, my biggest frustration with even well-planned PD is that it's usually disconnected from our actual teaching, and therefore often doesn't get applied in our classrooms. When we use PD time to learn a manageable amount of new information and then apply it to our own lesson plans, we get a double bang for our buck: planning instruction (which needs to happen anyway) and improving our practice. As that North Central Regional Educational Laboratory report said years ago, "Professional development can no longer be viewed as an event that occurs on a particular day of the school year; rather, it must become part of the daily work life of educators. Teachers, administrators, and other school system employees need time to work in study groups, conduct action research, participate in seminars, coach one another, plan lessons together, and meet for other purposes."

2) Longer work days: As a teacher, I don't like this one much, but it's an option and it has some benefits. Typical teachers work about 7.5 official hours per day. If we provided support to work a more typical 8.5 or 9 hour day, we would more efficiently and comfortably do the work we now gerrymander into our mornings, nights, weekends, and lunches. Support for working longer official hours could include higher pay, professional supplies like phones, computers, and printers for every teacher, well-organized work space, and use of extended hours to schedule meetings and planning in more efficient blocks of time. (E.g. Teachers could all have 2 or 3 uninterrupted hours of work time after students have left rather than 50 minutes squeezed between picking up and dropping off students and and often interrupted by student needs.) When I was googling on this, I came across a work schedule for teachers at TEP Charter School in New York City, of which I have little other knowledge. According to this schedule, "To meet ... redefined expectations, TEP teachers work professional hours, typically from 7:45 AM to 5 PM in a work-day filled with a variety of teaching, learning, and leading experiences. ... Each teacher observes his/her partner teacher 1 period per day, is observed by his/her partner teacher 1 period per day, and plans/debriefs with his/her partner during a common planning time each day."

As I said, I don't love the idea of officially extending my work day. At the end of a teaching day, I am TIRED, and rarely at my best for planning and innovating. I'm curious how these work days turn out in reality. If you know of schools with a similar schedule, please write a comment to let us know how it works. This school year, I will be informally experimenting with this option, changing my self-designed schedule from working about 8 hours on Sundays to adding about 2 hours of planning to the end of each school day. Working consistent 10-12 hour days sounds daunting, but I want a 2-day weekend. We'll see how it goes. What is your experience with extended work days for teachers?
Check in next time as we explore more solutions ...

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