The alarm clock rings. Is it 2020 already? I look in the mirror—I’ve aged well!
I put in my “flex hour” of planning time before school. Some split the hour, some plan after school, and others meet collaboratively. No more clock watching—teachers are trusted to organize their schedules to suit their professional roles.
My 5th graders and I begin the day with our language arts block. Afterwards, they have mandatory recess. This is based on the premise that children learn best in chunks of time, interspersed with opportunities to exercise and socialize. (On the way back to class for our math block, we see a first-year teacher and her veteran co-teacher. Much like a medical resident, she co-teaches with her mentor for a year before being fully certified.)
Then it’s lunch hour—which is an actual hour. The administration and instructional assistants conduct family-style meals with the children, followed by some recess time. Meanwhile, teachers eat a duty-free lunch then and participate in collaboration time with colleagues of different grade levels, specialties, and professional roles. Some teams opt to use the entire hour as a collaboration “working lunch.”
After lunch—while students are learning about art, dance, music, PE, or technology—grade-level teams meet. We plan lessons, craft common assessments, look at student work together, discuss students of concern, and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. (On the way to my meeting, I pass the librarian who is meeting by webinar with his district colleagues.)
Next my class studies astronomy—one of a series of interdisciplinary units that integrate listening, speaking, language arts, math, science, and technology skills. We have the time to offer these kinds of units now that the states no longer require high-stakes standardized testing for every student every year. No need to spend valuable instructional time on test preparation and administration. (Furthermore, by changing how we handle standardized testing, we are able to fund more intervention specialists who work in our classrooms and “in the moment” with students.)
My students go home and I take stock of my day. After my hour prep period, I spent 60 percent instructing students, 25 percent collaborating with colleagues, and 15 percent for recess prep time/lunch collaboration. This is a vast improvement from when I started teaching (without a mentor)—85 percent teaching time, 10 percent collaborative time (during lunch with a generous veteran teacher), and 5 percent preparation time.
The alarm clock rings. Back to 2012? I look in the mirror—I’ve still got it.
Although we may not be there yet, I feel heartened by my dream of how time can be used more efficiently and effectively in the future. I feel energized to go out and make it happen.
Dedy Fauntleroy is an ELL instructional coach in Seattle Public Schools.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.