Friday, April 24, 2015

Year 5: Week 31 – Prototype Week

For the past five years, I’ve had the same teaching schedule with a couple adjustments here and there. From what I understand it’s been over a decade since my school has had a holistic schedule change. For the past year the administrative team has been working on a new schedule and this week we had a prototype week where we tried out a draft of a new schedule.

In some ways, it was crazy. I felt like every five minutes I was checking my phone or the times I wrote on the board to see what time class was ending. There was a frantic energy around the teachers as we tried our best to negotiate unfamiliar transitions. Then there was the marathon-like feeling of teaching different classes in different orders, which challenged the rhythm teachers were accustom to.

At the same the craziness was kind of fun. Many kids came to class more fresh and ready to work, reveling in the novelty of having class at a different time of day. While there was some complaining about the schedule the kids rolled with it pretty well and the sense of discovery, seeing kids on different days and different times was refreshing.

Now what? It’s time for us to reflect on the schedule, but this is not an easy thing to do. There are different perspectives that we need to separate out as we examine the schedule. The hard thing is that some of these viewpoints are so interwoven in our day to day teaching that it’s difficult to pull them apart. Here’s what I mean:

The contract: Schedules have to address the contractual agreement between faculty and the administration. I don’t think this is the place where conversations about the schedule should start, but it’s a factor that at some point must be considered. Teaching minutes sometimes seem like limitations to education, but if these get steam-rolled, it effects planning time, which in turn negatively affects the quality of teaching.

Personal teaching preferences: We all have our own personal preferences about when we have prep time and when we like to teach certain classes. A lot of this builds up from what we are used to doing. It’s hard not to think about this because if our schedules line up with who we are naturally as teachers our kids will benefit, but this is not the nature of what it means to be a teacher. We are the teachers are kids need us to be as opposed to being the teacher we want to be.  We teach not at time we want to teach but rather times we need to teach. All of this needs to be put aside for the most important point:

What works best for the future of our students’ education: When reflecting on the schedule, we need to imagine that we are creating an idea schedule for someone else to teach. Based on research, the rhythm of the day and the curricular needs of students, we need to seek out a schedule that addresses the future of education. It is not enough to simply fix problems from the past, we need to set up a schedule that can help evolve the way the we want to teach.

In some ways it’s impossible to pull these three perspectives apart because they inevitably affect each other. Why even consider a schedule that you know for sure wouldn’t work within contract minutes? Because only by considering what seems impossible can imagination make something happen. It’s never a question of can. It’s always a question of should.

We’ll pull together our feedback, keep talking about schedule and see what happens. And even after the madness of this past week, I’m still feeling optimistic.

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