I have read a couple of posts that resonated with me lately from Chris Lehmann and Clarence Fisher about teachers having enough time to prepare and plan together. The emphasis was not on preparing for any individual lesson but on planning as a team for the big picture of how your school will work and innovation. I agree that time is being taken away from many staffs as it costs money.
My new job started so different from my previous jobs and I would guess different from most of your experiences. For my first job I was hired around a week before school started to teach five classes with no textbooks or prepared materials. My second job I also was hired right before school started. In my experience this is the norm. Some of you may even be waiting to hear about a job right now. This is often unavoidable as schools do not know enrollment or people change positions at the last moment leaving vacancies. But this is a terrible way to run an organization.
Our team at our new school has been truly blessed with adequate time (there is no such thing as too much time!) We started working together after spring break and had three weeks of extra work time in the summer. We did not have students or any “teaching” duties during this time. We received PBL and other training. We worked hard on curriculum, created a handbook, and planned an orientation for students the first week of school. We also got to know each other by traveling to Indiana for a couple of days visiting another New Tech school, a summer barbeque, and lots of shared meals.
If you were a fly on the wall in our “office” you might at times think we were “wasting” time talking about our children, dogs, or the Tigers. But this was valuable time spent getting to know and trust each other. We were strangers in April, but now are a team that knows and understands each other and is growing together. I can not imagine starting a new school if I was just hired last week and did not know anyone.
I feel some of our results are impressive. One member of our team was not released by his district until school ended in June. When he joined us we made very fast progress. We looked at Standards Based Grading as a team for one day and decided to implement it fully. We wrote a mission and vision statement in two hours. We were able to make many decisions that typically a staff might argue about for months very quickly.
I think this happened for a couple of reasons. First we all choose to work at this school to be a part of the movement to change schools. We all came with a framework of wanting change, cutting edge practices, and the best learning environment for students. We do not have any teachers who resist and fight changes that might be found at a traditional school. Also we are starting a school “from scratch.” We all have backgrounds in traditional schools and we all have received the same excellent PBL training. The teamwork and trust we have in each other is exciting.
Finally my principal is a great example of a empowering leader. She does not tell us how to do things. Decisions are made by consensus. Yes, all five of us must listen to each other and agree for something to happen. This has led to many passionate discussions but because we respect each other and the overall goals that we have, we reach agreements rather quickly.
And this is my favorite thing about this job: professionalism and academic freedom. I never feel “managed” by my principal but feel like an equal partner who has different responsibilities. The responsibility of being a part of every decision and truly having my voice heard has been reinvigorating to me.
The best part of this starts in two days when it is my turn. I get to share the responsibility in my classroom with students and give them a greater voice in their education than they have ever had before. I know that I have pushed my principal and team in ways that they would not have expected. I anticipate how my students will push me in ways I can not predict. I have never been so excited for school to start!