Many administrators have leveraged resources to provide time in the school day for educators to attend professional development, collaborate, plan and check off the never-ending list of things required of teachers today. Districts have shortened schools days, utilized guest teachers or creatively configured the schedule to allow for non-teaching time to be built into the schools day. As administrators spend money, resources and time on these activities to meet the needs of teachers, and ultimately their students, it is beneficial to examine utility of this “sanctioned” time and the impact on learning opportunities.
As I work with teachers (new, mid career and experienced teachers) I find two truths exists. The first is that teachers today are overwhelmed with the amount of “new”– new standards, initiatives, technology, programs etc. The second is that teachers want more time to plan, learn, try something, and collaborate with their peers. What is clear to me though is the biggest factor in effective collaboration is not the amount of time, but what is done with the time. Too often I hears stories of “PLC” time bombarded with tasks or time that is spent determining what to include in the minutes or “reporting data” rather than making sense of it.
The activities that teachers engage in during the allotted time vary greatly, as does the impact on teaching and learning. In order to maximize time for teachers, it is necessary to have clear protocols and effective facilitation that allows for powerful learning and sharing of all ideas. Professional learning requires collaborative opportunities to design powerful learning experiences for students and time to reflect on successes and challenges to determine next steps. The power in the collaborative time is not in the time alone, it is in the opportunity to network and engage in meaningful conversations, and generate new ideas to impact student learning.