Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Time to Learn, Time to Teach

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Time to Learn, Time to Teach

Article excerpt

How schools use time is an evergreen issue in education. No matter what time of year it is, time--or the lack of time--is always up for debate.

But, although time and learning have been at the forefront for a couple of decades, we haven't exactly embraced significant improvements. We grumble about the agrarian calendar and how schools should no longer be aligned with the agrarian calendar--but then we allow academic calendars to be ruled by athletic calendars because, of course, that makes perfect sense in the 21st century! We fuss over whether any students should start school before dawn--of course, they should not!--and then persecute superintendents and school boards brave enough to tackle such a change. We sit on the sidelines when governors and state legislatures mandate that school cannot start until after Labor Day because of the inconvenience to the tourist industry. (The tourist industry? In Maryland? Really?)

We look in so many of the wrong places when we try to improve time for learning. We neglect one of the most crucial areas: how teachers use their time.

For too long, we've assumed that a teacher's work day should more-or-less align with the student's learning day. A teacher's work has been defined as standing in front of students all day long and attending back-to-school night for a few hours early in the year. Teachers should arrive at school shortly before students and leave about 30 minutes after the last bus departs. We've assumed that teachers will be doing more of their lesson planning and grading at home.

Hasn't anyone noticed that our expectations for how teachers work have changed--a lot--but that we've barely tweaked the teacher workday?

Time for teacher learning

Teachers deserve a workday and a work year that has instruction as its core but builds in time for planning, personal learning, and collaboration. A teacher should teach no more than 20 hours a week and spend the other 20 hours a week on her own learning and planning and in collaboration with colleagues. …

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