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Time is What Teachers Need Right Now

At first glance, this post's title might be perceived that hybrid learning is not working in many districts and schools.  I can state unequivocally that it is based on firsthand experience coaching in schools the past couple of months. I have seen incredible lessons and activities that have both engaged and empowered learners through the purposeful use of technology, sound pedagogy, and personalized strategies. However, this is not the case at scale, and it is not the fault of teachers.  For virtually everyone, hybrid learning represents a monumental shift from what has been done in schools. No one was thoroughly prepared for this transition. Now we must accept this fact and work to get it right until the pandemic subsides.

Teachers need time, plain and simple, to make this work. There is no way to skirt around the issue. The current course in many districts and schools has created conditions and a workload that is just not sustainable.  I have had heart-wrenching conversations with teachers on this issue. As I have asked them what I can do to support them, the uniform response is to have more time.

Build it into the schedule

If you have not yet moved to a hybrid schedule, now is the time to think about how it can be integrated weekly or daily.  Many schools have implemented some variation of a flex schedule where an entire day is allocated for teachers to plan and catch up, typically on a Wednesday or Friday. During this day, students are all remote and working on asynchronous tasks. For more information on various hybrid models, check out this detailed piece from Education Week.

If you are already in a hybrid model, time can still be added with approval from the Board of Education. Another possibility is to look at other ways to free up time each day. I did this for my teachers as a principal. Since each teacher had a non-instructional duty by contract each day, I cut these in half, freeing them up multiple periods per week to pursue innovative practices. We called this the Professional Growth Period (PGP). If I were still a principal under these current conditions, I would have released them totally from their duties, which would have given them an entire period each day to prepare.

Dedicate specific teachers to remote learners

Another option to help alleviate some pressure is to assign remote learners to specific teachers. Ideally, this is done before a hybrid model is implemented. However, it can be done at any time. In this scenario, teachers are not responsible for both face-to-face and remote learners simultaneously, which turns out to be a huge relief.

Move to blended strategies

Another way to get back some time is to look at how it is being used. Implementing pedagogically-sound blended learning can free some up to manage both groups of learners better or even catch up on tasks. A teacher can work with smaller groups during a targeted instruction component with a modified station rotation model. Remote learners can be placed in the same rotation to eliminate the back and forth that often occurs when trying to teach both groups simultaneously.  Check out this post for more details on how to implement this successfully. More independent strategies such as choice boards and playlists can free up time for the teacher to monitor as needed, but also try to catch up a little bit. Since many teachers were already using these strategies prior to the pandemic, the foundation is already in place, with only a few tweaks being needed. By no means does this solve the issue entirely, but it can lead to less time being spent on the weekends and late at night.

Develop a coverage schedule

If you are an administrator reading this, hero status can be achieved by working with your leadership team to develop a coverage schedule. Thanks to technology, your office can be a classroom, and you won't miss a beat. As part of an alternating process, one leader could be in the main office to attend to any issues. Other administrators and support staff who are not involved in daily hybrid teaching can lend a hand to give teachers the needed time.

It is important to note that no matter the strategy used to free up teachers' time, there should be no strings attached. What I mean here is that this has to be their opportunity to plan, grade, conference with students, create videos for flipped lessons, or engage in professional learning. They should not be mandated to attend meetings, participate in PLC's, meet with parents, or attend professional development. For it to work to alleviate stress and anxiety, they should have full control as to how the time is spent.

For more remote and hybrid learning strategies and resources click HERE.