Monday, July 29, 2013

Planning Time: The Great Divide?

Is "Planning Time" the factor that creates division in school communication and action?

I'm wondering this because like many educators I'm spending a considerable amount of time planning curriculum during the summer months.  It's truthfully the only time I have to research with depth with regard to revising units and learning the latest tools, strategies, and information.

Once the year gets going, almost all of my time is spent with time-on-task endeavor for my 25 or so students. Yes, teachers do get planning time during the school year, but most of that is spent on direct response to daily efforts such as parent emails, correcting tests, and revising lessons to meet students needs.

In many schools, however, there are a number of people whose time-on-task is planning time--that's the time they research, read, connect, and plan.  This difference of planning time has the potential to create divide because those on task who are responsible for carrying out the plans, have little time to plan during the school year, yet many, who are responsible for leading the time-on-task people plan during the year.

If this divide truly does exist, what is the solution?  As I've written numerous times, I believe that roles and responsibilities in schools have to shift to meet the new age of tech integration and connectivity we live in.  I believe that most people in schools should have direct service responsibilities to children, and those people should share the responsibility for reading, research, and planning. That would mean streamlining administrative roles to only a few, necessary leadership positions, and extending the time-on-task, direct service roles to more individuals including a more balanced schedule for each of those individuals with regard to direct service and planning time.  I believe this shift would create better student-teacher ratios for critical teaching efforts as well as provide more educators with time to collaborate and plan.

Every system has somewhat different structures, and every system defines roles differently.  For example, in some systems coaches play a direct role with student learning and in other systems coaches lead, but rarely work with students.  Also in some systems, there are numerous leadership/evaluation positions and in other systems there are few of those positions.  The key in all of this is figuring out ways to determine the merit, strength, and impact of each role--does the role serve student learning well or could the role be revised to better effect student learning?

I guess I continue to return to this discussion because I'm always a bit hindered by my role parameters and the vision I'd like to meet.  Planning during the summer means that I'm mostly planning in isolation since most people are on vacation or not available, yet during the school year I simply don't have the same kind of time for planning since I'm spending most of my time with large numbers of students in direct service.  I don't have the answers, but I do think movement away from the factory model of "doers" and "leaders" will move schools forward with strength.  Do you agree?