Welcome to my ramblings!

Welcome to my Blog. Here you can find the ramblings of a old high school principal. I've created a number of blogs over the years for a variety of reasons. A large number of them I use with my staff which are password protected from the outside world. This blog is for my fellow educators and anyone else who wants to read the ramblings. I guess my target would be building administrators, future administrators, teachers and educators in general.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Teacher Plan Time

Teacher Plan Time

I want to first state, I believe "Time" is in short supply for teachers. As you read this blog you may think I'm not aware of how short time can be so I wanted that out front. Now that is said, let me also share that I believe "time" is what we set as priorities in our lives. If something is important enough we seem to find time and in teaching there are things we can ask others to do or simply not do all together to find time. 

I'm sure we've all heard teachers say "I just don't have time for that," or "If I only had time I could do more." So here at SHHS we are trying to find more time for our teachers and along the way hopefully convince them what we are asking needs to be a priority. 

So what can we do to help teachers with more time? Most districts give time to teachers through "Plan Time" which in my building teachers call "Their Personal Plan Time." Here at SHHS it's a challenge because we run a seven block system which in turn only allows teachers three planning periods a week or if they teach third hour (which is shorter) four planning periods a week. 

We use other ways as well which include "Staff Development Time". These are monthly scheduled in-services driven by the needs of our building and organized through our Leadership Team. Hopefully, we have provide the type of staff development that is considered beneficial. In our district we have a half-day of inservice almost monthly and half-day Professional Learning Community. That PLC time is driven by the PLC leadership and time is used as they see the need. 

Speaking of PLCs our district has allowed us to have a late start Monday which means we meet on a weekly bases. Again, this time is governed by the PLC Leadership and is often focused on items like curriculum alignment, resources identification, training and more. 

Even with all this time it seems we haven't given our teachers enough to work in small groups on direct ways to improve classroom instruction. So this year we launched something new that we call "Mini Focus". We identified teachers in the four core areas that would work together. When we built the schedule we gave them the exact same "Plan Time" (Personal Plan). We understood this would mean some lost alone planning/grading time, but felt by working with others they would still be able to plan lessons. 

Let me share what we expect:
  • Plan a lesson (backward design)
    • We asked they meet at least once every two weeks if not once a week.
    • Identify what you want your students to know as you build your lesson.
    • Develop a Common Assessment to see if your students learned it.
    • Common Strategy or Activity for ONE days lesson for the whole unit. We understood they would be developing a unit of study but wanted them to at least take one activity or strategy and develop it together. This allowed for a common discussion ground where we could compare apples to apples. In addition - we ask them to challenge themselves and develop this activity or strategy outside their comfort zone. Something new to them.
    • When teaching the lesson we get subs so all teachers involved get to watch each other teach that one activity or strategy. 
    • Meet later (called debriefing) and discuss their observations, determine if this is something they want to do again and how they can make it better.
    • Meet later and discuss the results of their assessment to see how well students did. Breaking down what they taught in common and what they taught on their own. We do this to see what works and what doesn't.
    • We do this once a month and we call this our "Mini Focus" group.
  • To help them we also gave our Chairs a second plan and expected them to lead these meetings with the help of our instructional coach. In addition we meet with our Core Chairs together once a month to discuss expectations, leadership, etc.
Yes, we have some teachers who are not happy with common plans. They see loss of their personal plan time to grade, copy papers, etc. A few I've even seen watching the clock while they are meeting. On the other hand, I've seen teachers who have embraced this idea soar. They are doing lessons they would of never done had they been left alone behind closed doors. They are clearly focused on student learning. 

Next year we are looking at giving a whole department the same plan time. For example all 10 Language Arts teachers would have the same plan time. This would be in addition to our weekly Professional Learning Community time and our monthly in-service time/PLC time. Hopefully, in time all our teachers will see this time as valuable. 

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