Routines, schedules, and consistency are the guiding principles in the life of a teacher. Teachers plan their bathroom breaks to the second, their planning period work time to the minute, and create time-stamped lesson plans. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown that into a loop. Many teachers are at home without their productive, student-focused, and comfortable schedules. They are struggling with how to meet the needs of their students, take care of their own children at home, understand the best practices of remote teaching, and figure out how to create balance and boundaries in this new working normal.
New Normal, New Opportunity
I’m hopeful (though pragmatic) that this can be a time of opportunity for teachers in some areas: pedagogy, differentiation, and personal rejuvenation. As a principal, I always thought the rigid school day schedule was a barrier for teachers. I knew what they had to get done, what the deadlines were, and how much time they had on planning periods. There were weeks when I was astonished that all my teachers met deadlines. They just have so much to get done. Teachers are resilient, creative, and the hardest working people I know.
But in the US, teachers most commonly have 45 minutes for planning https://www.nctq.org/blog/November-2017:-Teacher-Planning-and-Collaboration-Time). Some days, it’s hard to even fit one parent call in during a 45-minute chunk of time. It is even harder to make 5 lesson plans for the next week. In high achieving education nations like Singapore, teachers only spend 35% of their time face to face with students and spend the rest of it planning lessons and practicing execution (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/planning-project-results/ ).
We can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. For that, teachers need time for planning proactively and collaboratively. They need to be able to practice their execution of lessons. We want to create the ability for teachers to meet with the highest need students one-on-one. Teachers need to be able to differentiate to meet the needs of both high and low performing students. Then we will have taken advantage of the opportunity in front of us.
Obviously every teacher has different and unique needs. Here are some general examples of schedules to consider and adapt as needed.
|8-8:30||Morning Meeting with Students (SEL Lesson)|
|8:30-10:00||Planning Time Independently|
|12:30-1:30||Planning Time Collaboratively|
|1:30-2:30||One on One Meetings (three 20 minute meetings)|
|3:00-3:30||Planning Time Independently or Reflection|
Weekly Teacher Time Breakdown
If that schedule won’t work for you, here is what the average beginning teacher in Singapore does during the week. The following is a breakdown of time in their workweek according to a Stanford policy paper. (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/scope-singapore-student-and-teacher-time-report-final_0.pdf)
|Activity||Hours Spent Each Week (beginning teacher)|
|Staff Development Time||.5|
|Reflection and Planning Time||.5|
|Planning and Assessing Student Work||26.75|
Keep a Pulse Check on Teachers
To make this the most effective time, administrators also need to keep a pulse on their teachers. What thoughts, feedback, and praise do they have? How are they doing with their schedule? Do teachers have the technology they need to execute remote learning? Do teachers need specific training on these skills? School leaders need to know what their teachers need to build momentum during this time. If you’re a school staff member and interested in doing teacher pulse checks at your school, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.