Archive for November, 2021

Education: Time vs. Money

I don’t think many people would disagree that the job of teaching is different in a post-pandemic era when compared to the job most teachers signed up for before 2019. I am not discussing mandates, or masking, but rather the day-to-day preparation, and delivery of lessons and strategies for student learning. That is not to say that mandates, masking and the threat of Covid don’t place a significant level of stress on every educator, every day.

Anyone who has ever taught knows that teaching requires a great deal of preparation time. My observations over the years lead me to believe that the best teachers have a balance of experience and preparation. Both of these components require time, and, as it has been embedded into the American culture, “Time is Money”. That preparation time has always fallen on the backs of the educators. It has always been expected that teachers will prepare for their teaching on their own time. For the most part teachers have accepted this as part of the job. Of course the preparation time varied depending on the individual teacher and the time of year, since events, and holidays play a significant role in any academic calendar. Teachers over the years had accepted this sacrifice on their free time for the sake of the children, but that amount of time was something each teacher could personally determine.

That preparation time was established as part of the job description for a teacher throughout the public school system. Of course those states that have teacher unions might have found it difficult to increase that expectation of sacrificed free time without additional compensation. This all changed with the pandemic. Students were: in school, out of school, or blended both in and out of school depending on an individual school districts’ Covid Policy.

Teachers stepped up to help in anyway they could. They freely sacrificed their own family time to address the needs of their students. School policies wavered and flexed in all directions. School openings and closings both met and missed deadlines even different schools within the same district. Through all of this teachers hung in and adjusted their preparation time, most often giving more. This is when Districts began to rely on the time that teachers freely volunteered. Schedules were made up in many cases (not all) with little teacher input. All of these new demands on time have now changed the implied job description of a teacher, placing a greater burden on the teacher.

Teachers require time not only to prepare for their classes, but collaborative time with colleagues, professional time for development, downtime to recharge, time to assess their own efforts as well as that of their students. All of this is a necessity of the job of a teacher. All of it impacts a teacher’s time with family.

We must consider the new reality in today’s workforce. In this post-pandemic between 30 and 40 percent of employed people are leaving their current jobs to seek something better. Teachers are not immune from this trend.

It should be obvious to all that the public school system today is not the system we had before 2019. It is time to accept that change and make the system better. We need to approach time differently. We need to consider the needs of the entire education community. It is not “all about the kids”. It’s about the kids, the educators, and the parents.

We need to recognize the importance of time and how its efficient use is an investment in making a better system. Yes, money is important and necessary, but throwing money at a system that is inefficient with how time is spent is a waste of both.

I recently tweeted out an idea to consider. What if we made up the school schedule based on a four-day week for students and a five-day week for teachers? That teachers’ fifth day could be dedicated to addressing much of the preparation time teachers need: planning, grading, collegial collaboration, formative self-assessment and professional development.

This is just an idea, not yet a plan, but it is a great starting point to build a better, more respectful system. Getting more money for teachers has never been popular with anyone but educators. Teachers overall are underpaid, but it is more than money that they need. Time is also a valuable commodity and within reach if properly planned.

Let’s not come up with a list of flaws to dismiss this idea. Why not come up with a list of ways to support the idea. Give us a reason to make it happen, rather than reasons not to do it. The time is right for thoughtful change, but change is the key word. When it comes to respecting a teacher’s worth and the time she or he spends on her or his profession, I do not think our system has had a stellar record. After all of the bad stuff that has resulted from Covid, we need to strive to make some positives from this devastation. We have an opportunity here and now.

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