Yesterday we had a county-wide staff development day (and student holiday), a day dedicated to providing time for teachers to gain valuable training within the contract day and without interfering with instruction. With any luck some teachers might have gotten a little time to do some grading or planning.
There are a lot of mixed feelings, and some mixed messages about staff development in my district. Not least of these is that teachers want opportunities to learn with their colleagues, but they struggle with an ever growing workload that is hard to ignore on a day when they don’t have students. The issue always comes down to time.
So let’s talk about teacher time. How much time do teachers have? And how much should they have for planning, assessing, grading, professional development, and all of their other professional responsibilities? In my district we have a new calendar and a new set of guidelines and regulations regarding teacher time. Let me share what time a teacher has (these will vary, of course). First let’s look at daily time.
- 7 hour 30 minute contract day
- 6 hour 50 minute instructional day
- 1 hour minimum during the instructional day for planning/ preparation/ collaboration
- Other duties as assigned
This may make it seem as though a teacher has an hour and forty minutes a day for planning but this number is actually much less since teachers are given a number of additional “duties as assigned.” This is also a good time to think about what it really takes to plan and prepare for nearly six hours of quality instruction, and do the grading and assessment analysis from that six hours of instruction each day. I also have to acknowledge here that many teachers are at school far more than the 7.5 hour contract day.
Now lets look at the days that are different from regular instructional days throughout the year:
- Three staff development days per year (generally half of these days are teacher directed — but this cuts the training time in half)
- Four teacher workdays before the start of the school year
- Three teacher workdays (full days) during the school year
- Four strategic planning days for schools to work toward school goals. (half of these days should be teacher directed)
- Six days when students are released two hours early giving teachers two hours for planning, grading, etc.
This is less than 16 days spread out over the school year. And a lot of this time is scheduled with in-services, training sessions, and meetings.
But let me stop with my judgments there. My purpose here is to share what we are doing. I think our district is trying very hard to provide time to teachers, but I’m sure our system is not perfect. I know other districts handle this in many indifferent ways. Perhaps you can share how things are in your district.