Teacher to Teacher: Time Change
By Janice Ewing
My husband and I just got back from the West Coast, and we’re still adjusting to the three-hour time change. Our 10:30 p.m. flight out of Portland, Oregon arrived in Philadelphia at 6:30 a.m., just in time to start a new day, or was it 3:30 a.m., time to go back to sleep? This recent experience got me thinking about the whole concept of time – how we perceive it, yield to it, and/or shape it to meet our needs.
In a recent post on this blog, Lynne Dorfman talked about the importance of time in writer’s workshop. During the PAWLP Summer Institute, a common topic of conversation and reflection was the use of classroom time and how to find or create more of it for independent reading and writing. In my grad classes, time is also a focus of many discussions and collaborative problem-solving sessions. So, I’m inviting us to wonder together: What might happen if we changed not just our use of time, but our way of looking at it?
For example, what if we started with exploring what’s most important in our teacher decision-making? Here is a list of some of the factors that you might consider in planning your school year, week, day, or class period. How would you prioritize these factors in importance to you in your planning? What additional factors would you add?
Relationships with students
Understanding of students as learners
Quantity of writing produced or pages read
Quality of student work products
Adherence to pacing guides
Working around preset school schedules
How do you think your colleagues and administrators would prioritize this list?
How does that commonality or discrepancy of priorities affect your stance towards teaching and learning?
If there is a wide gap between your responses and how you project your colleagues or admin would respond, how might you narrow that gap? Is that important?
Pause to reflect on your priorities. How do they translate to action and use of time? For example, if you placed ‘relationships with students’ high on your list, what are some actions you take to make that happen? How do you create time for this? It might seem artificial to isolate factors that are actually interrelated to some or all of what you do, but it is helpful to examine your priorities and take an objective look at how your assumptions about how you teach and spend your time match with the reality of what you do.
Another example: consider how you ranked ‘preset school schedules’ on your list – perhaps you do not consider that a high priority, but it might still have a great impact on your use of time. How can you shape the constraints of a pre-imposed schedule to fit your true goals and values as a teacher?
What if ‘adherence to pacing guides’ has low priority for you, but high priority for your administration? How can you re-vision your use of time to address this dissonance?
In response to Lynne’s post about use of time in writers’ workshop, Kelly Virgin commented, “This reminds me of an exercise I did a few years ago. I sat down and listed out what I thought were the most important lessons/activities for my students to engage in regularly. Writing was at the top of the list. Then I made a list of how I typically spend all the time we have together in a week. It quickly became obvious that some of the most valuable items on my first list were undervalued in time and vice versa. With these lists laid out in front of me I was able to make some very meaningful shifts in how we spent our limited time together in the classroom.”
Kelly went on to say that this year she plans to revisit this practice, focusing specifically on use of time within writers’ workshop. You might want to try this strategy, or something similar, to create a visual representation of the correlation of your teaching goals and values with your use of time. Then, reflect on what you see individually, or perhaps engage a colleague in the process with you.
Here are a few recent professional books that might inspire you to reflect on your priorities in education, and your use of time:
Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst
Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher
Renew! Become a Better and More Authentic Writing Teacher by Shawna Coppola
Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for MASSIVE Impact in Your Classroom by Joy Kirr
What are your priorities going into the new school year? How do they match or conflict with those of your colleagues and administration? What are the implications of that? How can you reimagine your use of time for teaching and learning?