In my last post, I attempted to make a case that teachers are given too little time to do all their jobs well.
It’s one thing to say that. But one glance at the state of education will reveal that finding that time is going to take more than a smile. But there’s a difference between difficult and impossible. I’ve said before that teachers would likely do a better job if they only taught half the school day, but even I’ll admit that we are a long way from something like that being possible.However, if we are going to find this kind of time, we need think about changing structures and systems surrounding instruction and assessment and in that, I think there are some fairly reasonable opportunities.
1. For starters, we can stop reforming the reform efforts. Let an equilibrium set it. The confusion about retirement, evaluation, testing, professional development will naturally relieve itself if we just stop changing the game. (And when it comes to the state testing, well, I hate to put it this way, but all standardized tests are really, really flawed. So pick one, stick with it and move on.)
2. We can also start getting creative with our incentives. How about a contractual addendum that states that any teacher who mentors and chairs a committee or a department gets an extra time during the school day without students? Stipends are nice, but we need to talk about time. This starts to change the conversation. There is a lot to like about putting teachers in charge of curriculum committees, data committees, school improvement teams, and mentorships, but we have to respect that we are altering their job descriptions when we do that. They are no longer “teacher”. They are “teacher/district-level consultant.” and time should be built into the work day to complete the work of each of those roles. That is, if we really want them done well. The rise of instructional coaches should make this transition a little bit easier.
3. How about hiring a part-time, quality, substitute teacher to work 3 full days per week? (How about a retired teacher?) This teacher could get “signed out” like the media center or the COW cart, by any teacher who needs an hour to do school work. Maybe a couple teachers need to sit together and do data analysis. Have coverage available for those teachers, if the work is important. If that option isn’t there, the choice falls to either doing after hours (leading to exhausted teachers), doing it poorly (which diminishes the potential positive impact) or not doing it at all (which leads to authoritarian decision-making by school leaders).
This work can get done. I will agree that teachers have the ability to really influence an improvement in education. Whether or not we see that influence realized will depend on if we want our teachers to do a lot of work, or if we want our teachers to do great work.