It can be quite a discussion when negotiations come around. How much “prep” time do we allow teachers to have? How much “free” time should they get a week? How much time away from students do they really need each day?
Regardless of how much time we teachers have during the school day, it is never enough! But why? Is that really legitimate? What ARE teachers doing when they are not with students? After all, isn’t their main purpose to be WITH their students, teaching them?
Well, yes, teachers need to be with their students if their students are to learn from them. However, the effectiveness of their teaching has to do with what they do when they are not with their students as well. Let me list a brainstorm of ideas of what teachers do when the students are not with them.
- correct papers
- write down feed back for their students to read
- look at data
- talk with colleagues
- plan lessons
- refer to curriculum standards
- search for activities and ideas online
- copy papers
- go to meetings with administration
- prepare paperwork for upcoming special ed meetings
- complete paperwork for observations
- complete paperwork for other misc meetings
- organize paperwork students hand them
- sort through piles of permission slips, progress reports and other papers given to them by students and adminstration
- eat lunch
- go to the bathroom
- email parents
- collaborate with other teachers
- plan field trips
- sign up for the computer lab
That’s off the top of my head. A 2 minute brainstorm. When teachers are not with their students, they are working very hard to improve themselves as professionals and develop ways to enhance their students’ learning. Teachers need time to work on their craft during the school day not only to keep up on the day to day tasks of a teacher, but most importantly to be able to connect with and collaborate with other teachers.
We cannot work in isolation, we are much more effective when working together. This is something I firmly believe! I love collaborating with my team of fourth grade teachers. We help each other not only with lesson ideas but we keep each other in check when in comes to effective assessments of our students and the handling of student issues.
It worries me when we feel we need to defend what we do.
I went searching online for examples of this happening in other schools and came across this fabulous example of a school that dedicates 90 minutes a DAY to teachers working together. Check this out! (from www.edutopia.org)
Here is another concept to consider – the UNconference. This week there will be one in Philadelphia, PA @edcampphilly. Check out this video. I wonder if this could be a concept other schools (maybe mine) could adopt in place of those PD days we are required to attend the first days of school. It’s a great concept that really takes into account the talents we have at our schools in our teachers.
Last week, I discussed the importance of PLCs and PLNs. Our prep time is a variation of this concept. It’s not just about keeping up with paperwork, it’s about us continuously working on our craft. We also need to make sure that public perception of this important part of our profession is not misunderstood. When we are allowed time away from our students to discuss education with other educators, we grow as professionals, schools, districts and as a society.
Important note – That first video was originally published in 2000. I can’t help but wonder about the success of the program. Is it still in effect? How has it evolved? If it is no longer, why?
Elizabeth this is a great list, however I believe it is just the categories of things teachers do when not with their students. If you added subgroups this list would get much larger. Look at data for example, we collect it, we enter it in a spreadsheet (or equivalent), we collect it in a binder, we analyze it, we collaborate with it, we make instructional decisions based on it, we utilize it in parent conferences, and (at least at my school) we display class averages of it on a wall. Most of this list cannot be done during a 40 minute planning time either, so we end up taking it home. Teachers should never have to defend what they do with there time away from their students.
Recently in Florida people (with the help of our state legislature) questioned whether teachers should keep their job security. My reply was, “Ok, can you name another job that pays as low as teaching, but requires a bachelor’s degree (sometimes master’s), requires you to take the work home at the end of the day, and requires a replacement person when you are sick?” No one was ever able to answer that question.
I am fortunate to work with a group of teachers that are able to look past the lousy policy decisions and deprofessionalization of teachers to collaborate effectively for what is best for the students. However, I will admit, it is becoming increasingly harder. Policy makers need to leave the education system to the people inside of it, the people that are there because they care about children and the people that are there to make a difference.
I agree, Ted. That list is just scratching the surface of what we do when we are not with our kids. As I head into another week (after a weekend of correcting math exams) I know I’ll be faced with much paper and computer work getting ready for the end of year. There is no end! Summer is just more work prepping for next year. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and I love readying myself for my kids. But I just wish there was more time!!