Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Everyday is a Puzzle

A day of teaching presents itself like a puzzle. The number of students, goals and the ways to get there create a puzzle-like situation for the classroom teacher.  Then there's usually the last-minute events such as scraped knees, absent volunteers, fire drills and the like that add new pieces to squeeze into the equation. Teachers are called to be amoebas as they flexibly manage the day for student learning and growth.

While it's important for educators to be flexible, it's also important that schedules and routines stay as consistent as possible since careful planning and preparation for targeted instruction fosters optimal student learning.

In what ways can teachers, schools and school systems foster a high level of consistency and support? I propose the following short list of actions:

Create a system-wide pattern for decisions and implementation.  With this kind of pattern, teachers, students and community members can anticipate events and changes.  This type of pattern establishment puts leaders about nine months ahead of what is happening in the classrooms providing educators with timely path to follow. A pattern might look like this:
    • January: Revision and creation of system-wide goals, efforts.
    • February: Plans for the following year's events, routines and activities.
    • March: Planning for program revision, change and creation with hiring, ordering and more.
    • April: Planning events to culminate the year.
    • May: Year-end culmination events, assessments. Creation of the following year's calendar frame.
    • June: Attention to detail with transitions for next year.
    • September: Revisit year's goals, schedules, action focus.
    • October: Research and Discussion regarding the next set of system-goals, efforts.
    • November/December: Review and evaluation of existing goals, routines and actions.
Establishment of a yearly calendar (May of previous year)
    • Main events are posted.
    • A process for choosing dates is established.
    • Teachers and others plan additional events securing dates on a first-come, first-serve basis using the established system-wide process.
School Routines (June/Summer Months)
    • School administrators create the school-wide schedule of activities, learning periods and duties.
Classroom Routines (summer months/beginning week of school year)
    • Educators establish classroom routines and schedules based on the school-wide calendar.
    • Special events and field trips are scheduled during the summer or first week of school.
    • Families and colleagues are introduced to the classroom routine and schedule at the start of the year so they can plan ahead.
    • The classroom routine and schedule make time for important learning events and special activities 
A Process for Change. Streamlined systems for change are established so that the addition of new students, new events or needs are met in efficient, child-friendly ways while not upsetting the current routines and schedules.
Working with people will always present a puzzle-like quality, and that's a wonderful challenge of the job.  Yet, a solid routine and consistency at the foundation of work with children will allow us to make time for the puzzles that matter: the work we do each day to teach children well.