Saturday, June 29, 2013

Restructuring Schedules and Roles for Greater Student Response

How can we restructure school schedules and roles for greater student response.  As you know I'm in favor of "breaking down the walls" of traditional class structures to better meet the needs of more students. I think that we can do this by changing roles and schedules and without substantial additional cost.

Here are a few suggestions to lead this initiative.

1. Assign almost all teachers, coaches, and interventionists to a small advisory or homeroom groups.  The homeroom groups would vary in size from very small (for students who need substantial response/care) to medium size groups of 10-12 students. During these advisory groups teachers will be responsible for students' essential needs.  For young children that includes lunch, snacks, appropriate clothing, listening, homestudy response, notes, and permission slips.  The "advisory" would also be the time for read aloud and discussion to ensure that every child has that experience every day.  Essentially the "advisory teacher" would be the "mom or dad" of the school experience, the one who manages the child's report card, parent conferences, outreach, and response.

2. Start to think about learning goals in terms of numbers, environment, and ratios.  What learning goals demand a small teacher-student ratio such as writing conferences and students who have learning challenges in specific areas, and what learning goals work with larger numbers of students and more open, student-to-student collaboration.  Then begin to schedule teachers, rooms, and students accordingly. Make sure that students have the time and space for sensitive coaching where needed, as well as open time for exploration, investigation, collaboration, online learning, free thinking, creativity, and practice.

I know that we can serve students better in the school environment. That's not to say we're not already doing a great job, but I know that subject-area and classroom teachers struggle with meeting all the needs in a class setting with sensitivity, response, and care due to the large student-teacher ratios in those classes.  I also know that schools today are filled with specialists who work with small ratios of students, professionals who may have the time and interest in managing advisory groups that provide that personal touch every day to students.

Is this an idea that will work?  If you add up the collective professional hours in a building, could you divide those hours into more direct service for students, direct service and care that will make a difference?  Does this idea negate other duties that are imperative?  Does this idea demand that we streamline, simplify, and possible erase some tasks that exist now to make more room for direct, skilled student response?

As you can see this idea is at the beginning stages. . .I will grow this idea in the days to come.  Your suggestions and ideas are welcome. I believe this idea has merit and can impact students in substantial ways.  After all, students' optimal education is the reason we teach.