I am sitting at my kitchen table perusing three copies of Education Week. Three copies because I haven't had five minutes in the last three weeks to sit down and read any one of them as they arrived in my mailbox. In my tote bag at my feet are 30-something exams that require grading of the free response questions, I plan on tackling those next. Oh and it's Friday night.
I have an awful lot to do, in fact according to Education Week, I need to: reduce my unintentional biases against disadvantaged students that prevents them from entering advanced classes, eliminate my microaggressions that may permanently wound students, write a grant to support students with learning differences, evaluate my use of Snapchat, develop a new curriculum for sex education, become a edutechpreneur, teach financial literacy, travel to a foreign country and teach my students from my remote location, analyze student data and use it to drive my teaching, provide opportunities for students to develop digital citizenship skills, and mentor future teachers.
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.