Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Universal Panacea: TIME (#BlogSync)

January 2013 sees the 1st month of the #blogsync initiative set up by a series of bloggers via Twitter. The #blogsync is a central hub where all blogs on a common topic are shared amongst a community of bloggers/teachers/educational gurus. To see all of the posts on the below topic click the following link ==>

The 1st topic is: "The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime".

Having thought about the 1 universal thing that I feel could remedy UK education there was only really one answer based on my experiences so far... TIME!

If only we, as educators, had more time.

More time to plan our lessons - not just your 'bog standard' lessons but 'all singing, all dancing' lessons. Lessons that will blow our students' minds. Lessons that will grab our students attention from the minute they step through our classroom door to the minute they have to leave. Lessons that will take into account all of the multifaceted things we, as teachers, have to take into consideration when teaching a group of 30+ students. I know that I spend far too much time at the weekend and of an evening planning lessons as best as I possibly can for my classes, but even then I still find that some lessons end up being planned within a limited time frame.

Last year, when completing my GTP, I read many books that knew full well that teaching becomes a massive prioritisation task - what needs to be done now and what can be left for later. They also knew that you can't spend hours planning each lesson as there's just not the time in the day/week/term to do so. So, the suggestions of certain books is to give each class one 'all singing, all dancing' lesson a week. However, as noble as this seems that still means the majority of your lessons that week will just be 'ordinary' and surely that is just not 'outstanding'. It may be realistic, but not 'outstanding'.

More time isn't just needed to plan lessons either. There's marking to complete. There's reports to write. Parents to ring and get the support from. Resources to create and share with colleagues. CPD to complete and reflect on. E-mails to send and answer. After school revision sessions to run. and so on and so on. If we're to do all of the things we're expected to do in the current time frame we are given to do it, it's no wonder that corners end up being cut and essentially all these jobs are just done to the level required, rather than the level possible.

So, where can this extra time come from? Can we even get it from anywhere? Unfortunately my name is neither Bernard nor do I have a magical watch to freeze time...

...imagine if we all had one of these watches. How amazing would it be to, in the middle of the lesson, stop the clock and just take 5 minutes to reflect on what is happening around us. To freeze everything around us would enable us to: look at each and every student's book to see what, exactly, they had achieved so far in the lesson, to reflect on how we had just taught what we had taught - did I do a good enough job? Have I left anything out? What do we do next, what are our next steps? Is there something happening in the room that, perhaps, I wasn't aware of whilst helping the student I was previously helping? Could my TA do with a bit of guidance as to who to support next in the lesson and how best to do this? All of these questions are things that we have to take snapshot judgements on in the flow of a lesson. I know I often forget to say certain things (mainly giving out homework). Sometimes I find time just runs out in the lesson - we get so wrapped up in what we have been doing that the bell goes and you realise you've got to let them go to their next lesson - they possibly don't want to leave, you definitely don't want the lesson to end!

However, in realism, this isn't going to happen in my lifetime. So, is there a realistic solution?
I used to teach, last year on my GTP, a year 8 class for a 'double' period. This period lasted for 1 hour and 40 mins and the students were often given a 5 min break in between the 2 periods as that was when the normal lesson changeover would be taking place. Now, initially when I took over this class I was slightly daunted by the fact I would have a double period with the class and that I'd need so much more content for my lessons. However, what I found is that we were able to do so much more given the extra time and I treated the lesson as that - a lesson. Not a double lesson but an extended lesson with a short break in between. The break allowed my students to take a breather and for me to assess where we were from the first half and where to go in the 2nd half - adapting my planning where necessary. I think this structure worked quite well and there could be something there to build on?

Alternatively, we could have an afternoon a week free. I know some schools finish early on a Friday in order to complete CPD or as extra PPA time. I feel that it would be feasible to extend the Mon-Thu school day to 4pm and then have this afternoon free to complete marking/planning, go on courses, speak to and share ideas with colleagues etc. Would it solve all my time problems, of course not - but it may give that extra bit of time needed to make a significant difference to the quality of each of the tasks a teacher is required to do?

I'd be interested to here form anyone who does have a half day one day a week for planning purposes etc. Does it make a difference?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to see teachers given more time to complete the job we are employed to do, as to whether it is feasible is another question.

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