And you know what? I actually want to do most of those things! But my goodness, revolutionizing how we teach and how students learn requires planning and strategy before action. Planning and strategizing (and the research required to even get to that point) takes time, and a lot of it. Uninterrupted time, not 30 minutes here, or 40 minutes there while periodically students (or colleagues!) poke their head in the door with questions.
I haven't arrived on time any where in over three weeks. I'm being pulled in so many different directions, three preps, two APs, science fair projects, the responsibilities of a department head, freshmen problems, college recommendations, teenage angst, and then all the little tasks that pop up every day. So I'm late too meetings, to assemblies, to my own classes because I'm running from one fire to another. Being late makes me feel sick to my stomach, I was brought up to be on time. The anxiety of being late made me realize that, while I blamed myself for being late (and I won't relinquish all responsibility), I'm mostly late because the current education system's infrastructure is not designed to handle the requirements of its users. Schools are century old bridges designed for horse traffic, but are now bearing the weight of multiple semi-trailers - at some point it's going to break.
It's time to really open a dialogue about changing how teachers' days are structured in the United States. Other nations have figured out the 50-50 model, for every hour a teacher is in the classroom teaching, they have an hour to plan, prepare, mentor and provide feedback to students. This time should be sacred because the success of what we do rests on the foundation of our work. I can take the time to come up with an amazing inquiry-based project or I can provide students with critical feedback to support their academic development, but I don't really have the time to do both under our current system.
A recent article about opening up AP courses to all levels of students made me think, no way, that would be so unfair to underprepared/under-motivated students because I wouldn't have the time to customize their learning to make up for their deficits. It's not that I couldn't help more students succeed in advanced courses, it's that I don't have the time to do it. We keep talking about closing the gap, but I don't think we have the guts to do what it takes. No one would expect an attorney to enter the courtroom for a murder trial without weeks, even months of preparation, yet we ask teachers to walk into classrooms every day with mere minutes of preparation time. And I'm pretty sure lives are on the line in both cases.
I'd love to explore this topic in more depth. but of course, I'm late for a meeting! Feel free to comment with your thoughts.
Kerryane Monahan is a forever student, teacher of teachers, adventure-obsessed science educator who writes about science, education, leadership, teacher problems, student problems, curriculum, successes and anything else that skitters through her brain.