Sometime ago the teachers in my district decided to extend our school day four days a week so it could be shortened on Wednesday.
This was a benefit to teachers. Wednesday was a day for collaboration and planning. My team of second grade teachers had a standing meeting on Wednesdays. We planned curriculum, and designated responsibilities. We consulted our ESL teacher and literacy facilitator. We graded collaboratively. We learned from sharing successes and failings.
We no longer have this meeting.
However, we do have professional development… a lot it seems. This PD is district, school, and Title I based. As an instructional mentor to novice teachers I too have contributed to the increase in PD. Much of it has been beneficial.
As a Title I school a portion of our federal funds need to be spent on professional development. The focus of this professional development is implementing our school improvement plan. As part of a professional learning community we have school based professional development: strategies for increasing reading comprehension. Our district is piloting the new evaluation system. Recent professional development has been around identifying the components of instruction that an evaluator might see in a highly effective classroom.
Of the 34 Wednesdays in the school year, 8 are reserved for teachers with no mandated meetings. A recent audit conducted by a private education consulting firm identified “a lack of time for teacher collaboration” as a barrier to powerful teaching.
We seem to have discovered a solution. Next year we will schedule our specialists back to back. Instead of four 40 minute planning blocks a week we will now have two 80 minute blocks. This time will be devoted to grade level collaboration. I’m pleased… almost. With each benefit comes a loss.
You see, I used that specialist time. It wasn’t professional development time, it wasn’t collaboration time; it was planning time. Might the next audit identify “a lack of teacher planning time” as a barrier to powerful teaching?
I hope addressing yesterday’s challenges isn’t causing tomorrow’s.
Is this a common theme?