Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Combatting Teacher Burnout

Chris Lehmann wrote an interesting piece last week where asked, amongst other things;
How can we change the system so that more teachers are rewarded for not taking the short cuts?

Chris' post was inspired by video number 8 in Dan Meyer's summer video posts--which have been excellent.

How To Keep The Ones We Love?

In response to one of the comments, Chris outlined what he does in his role as principal to improve the sustainability of the profession. You should really check out Chris' comment in its entirety*, but basically he says that he;

  • - buys extra teaching positions to reduce the student to teacher ratio

  • - treats his teachers with an ethic of care

  • - fosters collegiality and collaboration amongst his teachers

These things come at a cost--for example; reductions in non-teaching positions--so the choices are still difficult ones to make. My favourite quote from Chris' comment is this;
In the end, I believe that high school teachers shouldn't have more than 80 kids on their academic roster. Teachers should not teach 70% of their working day, because that guarantees that the diligent teacher is consigning themselves to 60 hour work weeks -- minimum. Both those solutions mean spending a lot more money, but I think that's what it takes.

30% Preparation Time--Where Do I Sign Up?

I can tell you that I would have loved to have 30% of every teaching day as prep

Photo by estherase
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

time. In my last school, a grade 8 - 12 school, we ran a semester system. It meant that for one semester (half the year) you taught 4 out of 4 classes. For the other semester you taught 3 out of 4 classes and one block was for prep. A week into the new semester you could walk into the staffroom and tell right away who had prep and who didn't. Those without prep, if they were even in the staffroom at all, had that tense wide eyed look you see on horses when they're spooked. Those with prep had a whole different body language--sitting relaxed on the couches, joking with their colleagues.

When I had prep in a semester, life was pretty good. I would only have about 75 students to keep track of, and I would have the chance to overhaul some units and do some fresh stuff. I could collaborate with other teachers who had prep at the same time, or I could come in and watch another teacher's lesson during my prep and learn from them. And when I got home, I could actually spend quality time with my own children. The end result was that my students had a teacher who was more relaxed, able to roll with it, better able accommodate their needs, and able to provide more challenging and engaging activities. Conversely, when I had no prep I was responsible for around 100 students and always seemed to be running fast just to stay in one place. I'd often scarf down lunch in my room while I prepared for the afternoon lessons--missing out on valuable time to connect with my colleagues.

Now maybe for Chris that 30% wouldn't be all prep time, but I'm sure that it would be time that would allow teachers to do a better job and provide a better learning environment for their students.

Weighing In

If you teach in K-12 how much prep time in the teaching day do you get? What do you think would be the ideal? How else could we make the profession sustainable?

*I haven't figured out yet how to make a link to a specific part of a webpage yet, so you'll have to go to the post and browse the comments.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Periodic Table of Videos

I just found out about this resource via Alec Couros' blog Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy. The University of Nottingham has put together a series of YouTube videos, apparently one for each element on the periodic table, called The Periodic Table of Videos. I just checked out a few (Zinc, Potassium, & Uranium) and they're pretty engaging. I've embedded the trailer for this video series below.

Definitely worth a look if you teach any chemistry, otherwise forward it on to a colleague who does!